Ten phrases you need to know in Spanish

Posted by Alex Wardlaw in Jaco, Tours, Traveling 26 Oct 2015

 Spanish is the official language of Costa Rica. While many people in Costa Rica speak English, particularly in tourist heavy spots, knowing a little Spanish is not only polite, it’s sometimes downright necessary. I sat down with the man helping to catch the Room2Board staff up to speed. So if you are interested in learning Spanish in Jaco while you are staying at Room2Board meet Luis!

Keep reading to see the top ten phrases you need to know in Spanish!

Name: Luis
Age: 24
From: Medellin, Colombia.
Role at Room2Board: Spanish/English Teacher

Pictured above: Luis (standing) and two students.

How did you end up in Costa Rica?

Well I got a job opportunity to come and teach English in Jaco. So I decided to take it and I arrived April 12th of this year.

How did you become part of the Room2Board family?
I arrived in Jaco on April 12th,  to start teaching. I stayed at Room2Board the first 10 days of my move to Jaco because I didn’t have another place to live. After I left my room here, I went somewhere else, but I had become good friends with some of the staff members.  Caleb, one of the staff, wanted to learn Spanish. I am not a trained Spanish teacher, but I thought I could incorporate some of my English teaching training that I had learned and incorporate it into Spanish. So I started teaching Spanish maybe three weeks after arriving in Jaco. And it’s been great. I love teaching here.

How many Room2Board staff members are you teaching?
Right now, Caleb and Beto. And I possibly have a new student, Alexandra, the newest staff member at Room2Board. In the past, I taught Sean, Stacey and Chairis.

Which do you prefer teaching, Spanish or English?
I like teaching Spanish better, but feel more comfortable teaching English because I trained to teach English for a whole month – it was a month intensive course. So I feel very confident when I teach English because I know all of the grammar, but I really enjoy teaching Spanish. I enjoy teaching English a lot too – I love teaching English – but I really enjoy teaching Spanish. Spanish is my first language.

When did you learn English?
When I was 10 and moved to the states.

What school do you teach English at in Jaco?
The school is called 5 Monkeys Language School and it’s located in the center of Jaco, in front of Kokomo’s, right next to Mas por menos.

How often do you come to Room2Board?
I come to Room2Board probably about four days a week. Because every time I want to party, I just show up here and there’s usually something happening.

What keeps you coming back to Room2Board?
The people. And the good food. And the wonderful view upstairs on the terrace. And the teaching of course.

How did you get into teaching?
About three years ago, I started doing a little bit of research on teaching and by talking to other people I thought that it was a really gratifying profession. I also am a big fan of traveling so I wanted my career to incorporate traveling. So I thought that teaching English abroad would be a great way to incorporate those two things.

Where have you traveled so far?
I’ve been in Argentina, Chile, Guatemala, Mexico and lived in the states. And now I’m in Costa Rica.

Has teaching ended up being gratifying?
Very very gratifying. I love my job.

What’s the most satisfying part of teaching?
The most satisfying part is realizing that your students are learning. Realizing that you are teaching them something – that you are giving them a skill that they can use in their lives.

Do you have a favorite student success story?
Well, there is a group of students that I picked up as soon as I started teaching at the school, so i’ve been with them for 4 months, and their English has improved dramatically. They couldn’t communicate in English before and now they can. So that is really gratifying to me.

Best advice to give someone thinking of learning another language?
To keep trying. To not give up once you start and you see that it’s hard. Because it is hard. It is very hard to learn a new language. But it is very worth it when you can communicate with people in their native language or when you can just communicate with people in general because you acquired this great skill called speaking.

And learning Spanish?
To begin with, Spanish is harder to learn than it is to learn English. I would advise that the student keeps trying and do different things to learn. Definitely take classes with a teacher. There’s no better way to learn than to have somebody explain things to you. Also do your studying. Try to read short articles, try to listen to music and shows in Spanish and try to absorb as much of the language as you can.

What does a typical lesson look like for you?
I like to begin with a warm up, something to get the student into the class. Then I follow with an introduction, so I start bringing up the grammar points or the vocab that is going to be covered in the lesson. Then I follow by the presentation where I present the grammar and the vocabulary, followed by practice exercises. And finally, a way of having the student use the grammar or the vocabulary, so it sticks in the student’s head. I don’t do that everytime, but that is what I should do.

What are the Ten phrases you need to know in Spanish when traveling in Costa Rica?

  1. Where is the bathroom? Donde esta el bano?
  2. Where can I eat? Donde puedo comer?
  3. Where is a bar? Donde hay un bar?
  4. Where is a good hostel? Donde hay un buen hostal? (Room2Board en Jaco!)
  5. I like you a lot – Me gustas mucho
  6. What is your name? Como te llamas?
  7. You’re very pretty. Eres muy linda.
  8. Do you want to dance? Quieres bailar?
  9. Where do you live? Donde vives?
  10. Where are you from? (Very important when you are traveling.) De donde es eres?

What’s the biggest mistake you hear most first time Spanish takers make?

“Come me llamo?” That is saying, “What is my name?” Should be “Como te llamas?” – “What is your name?”

Any favorite stories from teaching the volunteers here?
One day, Sean, he got a pizza and he had half of it left over. So he put the box in the fridge upstairs and he wrote down on the box, “no comer por ti care picha.” This means, “no eat for you [expletive].” But the next day the pizza was gone. It was really trashy Spanish. Which is probably why [somebody] ate it.

Do you give lessons to guests?
Definitely open to giving lessons to other room to board guests. I love teaching. As long as I have the time, of course. But I probably will find the time.

How much are your lessons?
I charge $10 an hour.


Anything else you’d like to add?
I would like to say that teaching here has been wonderful. First of all, because the people that I teach are awesome. I love the travelers and just everybody is really cool. And second of all, the terrace is, I think, the best place for teaching class. That view is amazing.

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