Taking Spanish classes while you travel is a great way to learn Spanish, increase your confidence, and help you to speak with the locals. As I studied Spanish at University, I didn’t need to take any additional classes, I just try to talk in Spanish as much as I can! However, as most of you aren’t that lucky, I asked fellow travel blogger Tasha from Backpacker’s Wanderlust to write about her experiences learning Spanish in Costa Rica. She spent one week at a Spanish School in San Jose, Costa Rica; read on to find out more!
Visit Central America is a dream for many people, especially Costa Rica. I was excited to travel there, but worried that would struggle with a language barrier, so wanted to learn Spanish to make my travels easier!
My Experience Learning Spanish in Costa Rica
Before arriving in Costa Rica, I had downloaded a few language-learning apps and tried to learn as much Spanish as possible. However, this soon got overtaken by packing, organising what I would do there and where I would stay. Learning the local language quickly got put on the back burner, especially as my trip grew closer.
Luckily, I had signed up with Intercultura, a local Spanish School located in Heredia, a small town just outside San Jose. This is where I would be studying for my first week in Costa Rica, and would be able to truly immerse myself in the language, and discover new parts of the country at the same time.
Walking into the school on my first day, a beautiful orange-plastered building greets me. Little accents of green are highlighted against bright pink flowers. It is unlike any school I have ever seen before. My dreamlike state was soon shattered by my first task of the day though, a quiz to asses my current knowledge.
To say this test did not go well would be an understatement, but luckily, I am placed in a small class to allow for a more one on one learning experience.
The teacher, Monica, is your stereotypical Latina: absolutely beautiful, with long dark hair and an extremely loud personality. She understands both English and Spanish and gets us all laughing. This makes starting class with a bunch of people you don’t know a lot easier!
Monica teaches us about the basics of Spanish, mainly the first things you would learn in any language. How to say your name, where you are from, what you do and how you are feeling. She then sets the first homework assignment which is to write a general paragraph about us, and read it aloud at tomorrow’s lesson.
The classes are scheduled for the afternoon, so it is perfect for my current jetlagged state – however the nervousness soon sets in. I am not the best public speaker, and knowing I am going to speak in front of the class makes me worried sick.
With a shaking voice, I manage to get a few sentences out. While I am struggling, I make the classic rookie mistake of saying I have 21 anuses (anos) instead of 21 years (años), but what can you do!?
That night we go on a trip to a local restaurant, Ram Luna, which has sweeping views over the valley below. With an open bar and buffet, we certainly have a good time. There are also local dances by performers in the most beautiful flowing dresses. I love that the school also organises trips so you get to know your classmates in a more personal setting, ultimately allowing you to make friends more easily.
In the morning, some of the teachers organise a cooking class to learn how to make some traditional Costa Rican food before school starts and the learning begins. We girls cook some delicious empanadas, while the boys just devour them!
In class, we learn the Spanish alphabet and how to pronounce each letter, eventually learning how to spell our names. This comes in handy when we all go to Pizza Hut for lunch and need to spell it to the cashiers.
That evening we met back up at a local bar where the school hired a bus to take us into San Jose to see a local band play & have some drinks. The alcohol gave us the courage to try out our newfound Spanish skills with the locals, which leads to an excellent evening.
The next day, it’s lucky our classes are in the afternoons, as a lot of people probably wouldn’t have managed it otherwise. With sluggish students and an overenthusiastic teacher, we try and finish off the remainder of our workbook before graduation tomorrow.
Completing the lists of she, he, his her, them and they, we form sentences and cram it all in. All we need to do to graduate is complete the book, and no one wants to be the only person who doesn’t finish! We spent the rest of the evening sitting down scribbling with a pen and paper trying to figure out all the answers.
Last day at Intercultura and the big day is here, graduation. Well as much as you can graduate from studying Spanish for a week. We really just know the basics, but that’s good enough. One by one our names are all read out and we are given a certificate. We take class photos and say goodbye to our teacher, but not yet to our classmates. Tonight, for the weekend, we are going on our first trip out of the capital with the people we have been studying with.
We pile onto a bus with our bags and head to La Paz Waterfall Garden. True to the rainforest vibe in Costa Rica, the plants here are lush, there’s a cool mist in the air and there is no better place to see some magnificent animals.
Snakes, jaguars, hummingbirds and many other animals are dotted around the area. It doesn’t feel like you are visiting a zoo, it’s more like a garden that these animals call home, with cleverly placed enclosures and amazing flora.
In the evening, we head further into the heart of Costa Rica to Monteverde. Though not without an obligatory sunset class photo (header image). With rains setting in we decide a pizza party would make a perfect evening at the hostel we are staying at.
That morning was our last day with Intercultura, but instead of being in a classroom we were zip lining in Costa Rica’s Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. What an amazing experience! Flying high above the ground and even going on Latin Americas longest zipline was a great way to end the week!
Arriving back at the school shortly after, we said goodbye to our guide and goodbye to Intercultura. Now it’s time to get out and explore Costa Rica on our own. With new friendships forged, some Spanish learned and many good memories, our time at Intercultura has been amazing.
You can find more information about Intercultura on their website here
Tasha Amy is the creator of Backpackers Wanderlust which focuses on budget travel and backpacking the world. Based in New Zealand she holds down a 9-5 job while making the most of every opportunity to get out and explore our beautiful planet on the cheap.
All photographs are courtesy of Tasha Amy, Backpackers Wanderlust.
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