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Every thing You Must Know About Costa Rican Spanish (Phrases Included!)

¡Pura Vida! (Pure Life) is greater than a slogan. It’s a greeting, a goodbye, an expression of pleasure, of gratitude, of claiming that every little thing’s okay, or that every little thing’s not OK, however oh nicely, ¡Pura Vida!  That’s life! To essentially “get it,” you must go to Costa Rica. 

Expertise the land of the “Ticos” (a nickname for Costa Ricans) by ziplining by means of the rainforest cover, seeing the manufacturing of espresso, bananas, pineapple, and sugarcane up shut, or getting a peek at a volcano. Benefit from the surf and solar on both the Atlantic or the Pacific coasts, and when you’re fortunate, expertise the wonderful biodiversity nestled in Costa Rica’s jungles. 

If journey and thrill-seeking isn’t your fashion, Costa Rica affords stress-free seashores, mountain retreats, and scrumptious eating places, serving up recent fruit, seafood, Caribbean dishes, and the ever standard gallo pinto (beans and rice). Can’t determine? Strive a casado, a combo plate with rice, beans, plantains, and a protein. Don’t neglect your cafetico (little espresso)! 

It doesn’t matter what your fashion, as a visitor in Costa Rica, you’ll be welcomed with heat and hospitality in Costa Rican Spanish. The Spanish you’ve discovered will serve you nicely right here, however it gained’t be lengthy earlier than you’re taking within the distinct sounds and vocabulary of Spanish in Costa Rica and what makes it particular. Under, we’ll dive into methods that you could sound much more just like the locals! 

Desirous about strengthening your Spanish expertise even additional? Take the subsequent step with bite-sized classes, studying instruments, and extra. Rosetta Stone has every little thing you must get dialog prepared very quickly. 

Why is Spanish spoken in Costa Rica?

In 1502, misplaced and battered by a storm, Christopher Colombus and his crew touched land close to Limón, dubbing the world the “Wealthy Coast,” and hoping to search out gold, further wealth and sources. It was tougher for the Spanish colonizers to realize complete management of the world than it had been in different elements of the “New World,” however after a long time of makes an attempt, the Spanish conquerors claimed the land and indigenous communities fled into the mountains, the place lots of their descendants stay in the present day. 

Practically 300 years of Spanish rule impacted the folks of Costa Rica in some ways, establishing Spanish because the dominant language of commerce and public life. The colonial interval ended with Costa Rica not solely profitable their independence as soon as, however twice, and struggling a bloody Civil Struggle. At present it’s a politically steady democracy which has abolished its military, and is understood for its peaceable give attention to ecotourism and know-how, in addition to its funding in schooling and nationwide heritage. 


How many individuals communicate Spanish in Costa Rica? 

There are over 4 million audio system of Spanish, the dominant and official language in Costa Rica.  General, English proficiency tends to be excessive, and in some areas many individuals’s first language is English. This contains coastal areas the place there’s important journey between Costa Rica and Jamaica and a proliferation of standard vacationer locations. 

Within the mountains close to Monteverde, there’s a group descended from the Quakers from the US. They’re bilingual in Spanish and an older model of English that makes use of “thou” as an alternative of you. 

There are additionally six residing indigenous languages spoken in Costa Rica, all of them from the Chibcha language household: 

  • Maléku
  • Cabécar
  • Bribri
  • Guna
  • Guaymí
  • Buglere

Different language communities have fashioned by means of immigration, schooling, and non secular affiliation. German, Italian, French, Chinese language, Arabic, and Hebrew audio system are all represented amongst those that name Costa Rica residence. 

What does a Costa Rican Spanish accent sound like?

Most individuals can’t understand their very own accent, however virtually everybody’s speech is affected by the place they grew up. English audio system from around the globe all appear to have vastly totally different pronunciation and tone, however can perceive one another. Evaluate Louisiana to Liverpool, or Sydney to Scotland, and you may perceive what we imply once we talk about the range of regional accents!

Although general, Spanish in Costa Rica sounds much like different Latin American Spanish dialects, there’s a particular Costa Rican Spanish accent that varies throughout the nation. For instance, the nearer you get to the Guanacaste area within the North Pacific, the extra you’ll hear the affect of Nicaraguan Spanish.  

Along with area, era, gender, and socio-economic components can affect somebody’s accent. The particular native accent may be apparent for a local speaker, whereas for a learner, a lot of the Central American Spanish dialects may sound the identical. Should you’re a cautious listener, there could possibly be a couple of hints that set Costa Rican Spanish audio system aside! 

The softer articulation of the Spanish used within the Valle Central (Central Valley), together with by most within the capital San José, may be essentially the most simply acknowledged, as it’s the usual accent used within the media. Sure letters are softer, together with the ultimate e or consonant of a phrase. 

Different common traits of Costa Rican Spanish accent: 

  • y and ll are pronounced the identical means
  • z and c are the identical, like an s
  • it’s possible you’ll discover weaker closing unstressed vowels, that will sound like “cochs” as an alternative of “coches”  

One thing many learners pay attention to is that the rr or closing r can sound like an American English r as an alternative of being rolled or trilled. 

>>Learn the way TruAccent may help you excellent your pronunciation. 

What are the variations between Costa Rican Spanish and Customary Latin American Spanish?

The Spanish dialects that you’re already accustomed to will siempre (“all the time”, and in addition “nonetheless” in Costa Rica!) serve you nicely in Costa Rica, as the vast majority of communication shall be mutually understood. Understanding a couple of particularities of Spanish in Costa Rica will assist you to join with the locals, however when you occur to get confused, pura vida. Don’t fear, that’s life! 


The verb regalar usually means “to provide one thing to somebody as a present,” however in Costa Rica, folks will use it instead of dar (to provide). This doesn’t imply that will probably be free, so when you hear it within the context of a restaurant or retailer, assume you’ll nonetheless need to pay!

¿Me regalas esa botella de agua?  = Are you able to give me that bottle of water? 


Usually derecho means “straight forward,” however in Costa Rica, they use directo as an alternative.  Once you’re giving instructions to a taxi, for instance, make sure you say directo. Should you say derecho, they may understandably assume you’ve got gotten confused with derecha (to the fitting). 

Siga directo y luego gire a la derecha. = Proceed straight and later flip proper. 


Whereas siempre means “all the time,” it additionally has a second that means of “nonetheless, persevering with to,” so it’s possible you’ll must ask for clarification. 

¿Siempre llueve?  =  Does it all the time rain? or Is it nonetheless raining? 

Topic pronouns

Should you’re touring to Costa Rica, you may simplify every little thing you discovered about vs usted for the singular “you.” Nearly all of folks in Costa Rica will favor usted, even in casual conditions between associates, so you may stick with the usted types in all instances. It’s doable to listen to because of the affect of media from different Spanish-speaking locations, however many individuals reserve this solely for his or her closest relationships, if in any respect. Some even use usted with household pets. 

Those that don’t use usted solely will doubtless make use of vos and their corresponding verb types for his or her closest relationships. That is the casual singular “you” utilized in different elements of Latin America as an alternative of, or typically interchangeably with tú. 

It’s fascinating that a lot promoting on billboards and window indicators will use the vos type of the verb as nicely. (It may be humorous when a telephone firm assumes it’s on private phrases with the world). Take benefit and spot the written conjugations, since they’re often overlooked of conventional textbook conjugation charts. 

Fortunately the types are easy and shouldn’t have an effect on your comprehension. (You’ll be able to even ditch a couple of pesky stem-change verbs!)

Listed below are a couple of fundamentals within the current tense: 

English Vos type Usted type Tú type
you might be vos sos usted es tú eres
you purchase vos comprás usted compra tú compras
you need vos querés usted quiere tú quieres
you do vos hacés usted hace tú haces
you sleep  vos dormís usted duerme tú duermes
you reside vos vivís usted vive tú vives

Different colloquial and slang expressions (tiquismos)

You’ll know you’ve arrived in Costa Rica whenever you begin listening to the time period mae. Its that means might vary from a filler phrase, reminiscent of “like,” or perhaps a gender-neutral time period to handle a good friend that may be translated as “dude,” “mate,” “lady,” or “bro.” If used to establish or level somebody out, it isn’t thought of flattering. It’s greatest to hearken to how the locals use it with love! 

One other informal Costa Rican slang phrase to represent the fun-loving seaside vibe is the well-known tuanis (high quality, cool, candy). A casual, road slang phrase for “superb,” it appears to have been made standard by means of surf tradition. The phrase might have originated with an previous navy code for buenos (good).  

One other very enjoyable one is “L.J.”(pronounced by spelling out the letters ele, jota) The story behind this slang phrase for “We’re off! We’re outta right here!” is that the phrase nos fuimos (we left!) advanced right into a mispronounced model, los juimos, after which was additional abbreviated to simply the primary letters. Should you’re on tour and you’ve got a number of stops to make, inform your group, ¡L.J.! when it’s time to go away! 


As in lots of Caribbean Spanish dialects, Costa Rican Spanish is stuffed with suffixes like -ito, -ita, –ico, -ica that serve to make phrases smaller, cuter, extra affectionate, or change the that means indirectly. You’re doubtless accustomed to phrases reminiscent of bonito (cute, good trying), and even nicknames reminiscent of Anita for Ana.  Relating to Costa Rica, using diminutives was so noteworthy as to provide the residents of the nation the nickname “Ticos.” 

You’ll be able to see this transformation in phrases reminiscent of: 

  • poco (little)
  • poquito (little or no) 
  • poquitico (little or no in Costa Rica!) 
  • un café (espresso) 
  • cafecito (just a little espresso, maybe that you simply’re excited to drink)
  • cafetico (your espresso in Costa Rica!) 

This linguistic tendency not solely adjustments the nuances of sure phrases, but in addition offers the Spanish in Costa Rica a mode that displays a sure tenderness and heat towards life. 


What phrases or phrases ought to I do know if I’m touring to Costa Rica? 

Costa Rican Spanish That means
¡Con mucho gusto! You’re welcome
¡Qué chiva! How superior! wonderful! cool!
¿Al chile?  Actually? Significantly? 
¿Cómo amaneció? How did you sleep? (actually: how did the solar rise?) 
diay a filler phrase; it could possibly change that means relying on the tone to imply “um,” “hey,” and, “omg”
dicha / por dicha fortunately, fortunately
el brete work / one’s job
jamar to eat
la harina slang for cash (actually: flour) 
rulear to sleep 
tranquilo / tranquila /  suave settle down, it’s okay
un chunche a random factor you forgot the identify of
un rojo 1000 colones (refers back to the coloration of the invoice)
un zaguate a stray canine, road canine
una birra a beer
una soda  a small cafe or snack bar; an affordable place to eat
una teja 100 colones

Discover Spanish in each area with Rosetta Stone

At this level you’re certainly able to fly to “Chepe” (a slang nickname for San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica) and immerse your self in the heat of a welcoming tradition with a constructive perspective about life. Whether or not you’re hoping for journey or rest, a style of the straightforward lifetime of Costa Rica is simply the ticket. You may also expertise Costa Rican Spanish by means of social media, on-line communities, or household connections! 

With the checklist above, pasito a pasito (step-by-step), you may really feel snug easing into Costa Rican Spanish with the phrases that make it so distinctive—and enjoyable to talk! 

To take your Spanish data a step additional, Rosetta Stone may help you capitalize on early successes to spice up your confidence quick. Our Dynamic Immersion methodology supplies most publicity to a brand new language, by means of audio spoken by native audio system, written phrases, and real-world photos. Every thing is introduced within the new language, offering a very immersive expertise. Be part of the ¡Pura Vida! motion and get began in the present day! 

Written by Jamie Edwards

Jamie is a learner and instructor of Spanish and French. When she’s not studying new phrases, you’ll discover her on the soccer sidelines, ski slopes, and observe and subject bleachers having fun with the 4 seasons of Western New York.



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