Typically, the adult European speaks two to three languages fluently, while the average American speaks one. Learn how you can help change that.

Europeans are expected to learn English in addition to the languages of their neighboring countries in school, while the American child is only introduced to beginner Spanish. Our children do study a foreign language as a requirement high school, and often in college as well. We download pricey programs to teach us any language we desire, but do we really ever become fluent by repeating these words to our computer screens? [quote_box_right]Learn the only two words you need in Costa Rica. ‘Pura Vida’: How to Use It and Where It Came From.[/quote_box_right]

While it is possible to learn a new language in this manner, we don’t pick up the real flow, slang, and humor intertwined in a real spoken idioma. This complete fluency only comes from submerging oneself in the homeland of the new language, where the native tongue is not spoken.

Preparing to Learn a New Language

Before we moved our family to Costa Rica, we purchased some small books to skim in preparation. One was titled, Learn Spanish in a Hurry. Our library also included all-famous, Spanish for Dummies. These provided a good starting ground for two people who had only the vaguest memory of the primary colors and numbers in Spanish. Upon arrival in our new country, we could at least politely introduce ourselves and ask for directions when out in society. While we found ourselves completely surrounded by the new tongue, we had yet to find a speedy method of learning it.

Immersion

Since my husband works from home on the internet, he did not have the frequent ability to wander the streets of our new town and hear the words flowing from person to person. He opted to download a few programs, and spent his evenings with ear buds in, listening to Spanish phrases until he fell asleep.

I spent the same first few weeks hiring an “instructor” for $5 per hour. I was being overcharged, but my maestra was willing to come to my house, and on my availability. If you find yourself in a new country without knowledge of the language, I believe this is the fastest way to develop an understanding. Simply put the word out to the locals that you are looking for someone who knows English and Spanish (in this case), who is willing to come to your home and chat with you for a few hours a week. There was no pen and paper involved in this situation, and my speaking ability improved quickly.

Now that we have moved to another town, I plan on asking a local woman to drop by a few times a week to chat in Spanish over a cup of coffee. Many people will meet with you for free for a language-swap, if they are interested in expanding their English-speaking skills. [quote_box_left]LOCAL TIP: Vizcaya Seafood Co. in Curridabat offers Language & Cultural Exchange Nights every Wednesday from 7:30pm – 2:00am.

8496-8382, [email protected][/quote_box_left]

While you aren’t learning the exact spelling and grammar of the new language, you most certainly will pick up the flow and pronunciation in a fraction of the time it would take you to struggle through Spanish for Dummies. It is not as simple as the title suggests!

The more you mingle in your new society, the more opportunities you will find to practice your new tongue. The people of the country will appreciate your interest in their language, and doors will open and better deals will be made to you in contrast to the foreigners who never make an effort to learn.