Costa Rica has been a favorite vacation destination for decades, but recently a new trend has begun to circulate. Students, mostly enrolled in high schools and universities, are beginning to plan educational trips to Costa Rica to perfect their Spanish speaking abilities. Instead of spending all summer vacation in classes and pouring over books, students are finding a 3 to 6 week trip to Costa Rica to be the perfect learning opportunity. Not only have these students found a country with numerous prestigious language schools, but they’ll be living in one of the safest countries in Central America and enjoying the tropics. This opportunity will be an immersion style education system which combines learning with vacation and exploration.
When coming to Costa Rica on a Spanish language quest, it’s best to have a class or two under your belt. Most adults can’t learn a language by immersion alone. For the very best results, take a couple of semesters of Spanish courses before your trip. Once you get here, all that information will give you a huge head start. By the time your trip is over, you’ll be speaking like a local.
If you are hitting Costa Rica to learn Spanish, make sure classes are part of your schedule. If you already have a significant amount of Spanish under your belt, these classes can be just once or twice a week, but you’ll still need some concentrated academic time. For newbies to the language, you’ll be able to find plenty of well-reviewed Spanish schools offering private classes and immersion style learning. Combining concentrated academic learning styles with every-day use will be the best way to meet your goal. Schedule your classes in the morning, that way you can take advantage of the rest of the day for immersion speaking and touring your new host country.
Classes can come in many forms. You’ll find Spanish Schools on nearly every corner, and most of them will offer both group and private lessons. Sometimes it can be a good idea to take both class styles. Group lessons will help you with conversational skills while private lessons will quickly hammer difficult grammar rules into your head. Yet for some people, sitting in a Spanish school just doesn’t seem right when visiting the tropics. These people are not out of luck, however, as you can contract a private teacher to help you outside of the classroom. Many bilingual private teachers will charge as low as $5 an hour for their skills. They’ll be willing to meet you in your favorite coffee shop or walk around the city with you, helping you navigate the busy markets and learn how to ask for directions. Look into a Costa Rican Facebook forum before you land in Costa Rica for teacher recommendations and class reservations.
Find a Homestay
Most language learners in Costa Rica encounter problems practicing Spanish in their lodgings. After full days of classes, navigating crazy city streets, and asking for directions in the local language, you’ll head back to your lodging for some down time and casual practice. Unfortunately, this will be very hard to do in a hotel. English tends to be the common language for travelers from all corners of the globe, and when you find an interesting group sitting in your hotel’s courtyard and enjoying a beer together, more likely than not they’ll be speaking English. They may not even have a better grasp of the local language than you do, so practice could be impossible. This is why the language traveler typically looks into a homestay.
Hard work and studying are important, but a new language really sinks in when you start to use it in casual conversation. You’ll want to wake up and enjoy a breakfast conversation in Spanish. You’ll want to end your day the same way. Needing to communicate in Spanish for day-to-day activities may be the best possible way to gain fluency quickly. There are many companies in Costa Rica who organize homestays, in fact your Spanish school can probably set this up for you. Look into a homestay before you arrive in Costa Rica. You can find an interesting local family, learn more about the culture and way of life, and your Spanish will improve quickly. Homestays usually come with at least 1 meal a day as well as a private room and bathroom. You’ll use your new Spanish skills every day in communication with your local family and you just might make some life-long friends.
You may only spend one or two hours in class a day, but the rest of your day should also be dedicated toward your goal: learning conversational Spanish. Fortunately, you’re in a Spanish speaking country, so almost anything you do will get you closer to this goal. For your time in Costa Rica, find another activity to fill your time. You’ll have time set aside for classes and touring the country, but set aside time for just one more planned activity. This can be a couple hours of volunteer work, joining a gym with a personal trainer, or finding a Spanish-speaking coffee club or hiking group. This non-academic goal will force you to communicate in a Spanish speaking atmosphere. The more Spanish speaking friends you make, the better your grasp of the local language will be.
Volunteering is a popular activity among students visiting the area. Make sure you find an organization with a lot of community participation. It is rather easy to navigate your way through Costa Rica without ever speaking one word of Spanish, so you’ll want to make sure you’re off the beaten tourist trail. Find a local organization and volunteer your skills. You’ll be giving back to your host country and may make some friends to help plan a dinner party or an afternoon at the beach.
Read in Spanish Every Day
If you’re taking daily or weekly classes, staying with a local family, and participating in a community activity, you’re well on your way to speaking Spanish. Every day your Spanish will get stronger and you’ll feel more confident speaking in public. There’s just one more step to make sure you’re using your language trip to its fullest: read every day. Go to a local book store and pick up a young-adult novel in Spanish. This will be a good reading level to get you started. Better yet, pick up a book you’re familiar with, such as a Harry Potter novel. This way you’ll learn new words without getting confused by the plot. If you’re not an avid reader, just make it your goal to read two newspaper articles with your morning coffee. You’ll finish your reading requirements early in the day and will be glad for some knowledge about local current events. You’ll be ready to hit the streets and practice your ever-improving language skills.