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Languages in Costa Rica

Languages in Costa Rica

Costa Rica’s official language is Spanish but it’s more and more common that ticos learn other languages, even in public schools and high schools the education programs include English and French. In private schools for all grades, many other languages are being added to their study programs to promote learning from a very young age. 


Our country and its people attract foreigners from all over the world to visit, to move here and also to be hired as bilingual staff and take care of organization’s customer service in places such as call centers.

Constitution dictates that even if we speak Spanish as native a language, we will protect indigenous dialects and depending on the zone, we have various of those: Malecu (Spoken by around 800 people in Northeast Alajuela), Cabecar (in the South Pacific, Talamanca mountain range), Bribri ( also in the South Pacific, Limon and Talamanca mountain range), Guaymi, Bocota, Terraba and Boruca (Puntarenas Southeast, with Panama’s border). Terraba is Teribe in Panama but it is the same dialect.


Costa Rica Central Valley’s Spanish is very similar to Bogota, Colombia’s Spanish. But every region has its differences. 


And we love our slang called Pachuco in which we mix everything and anything from other languages to expressions that don’t actually make sense in a literal way but it’s understandable if you know how to speak Pachuco too. It’s kind of confusing but very funny once you get the hang on it.


9% of our population is immigrants, they enrich our country with amazing food, great culture and an assortment of languages. Even if the majority of migrants in Costa Rica are Spanish native speakers, there are several other diverse communities that don’t speak Spanish and get by just fine.


You can actually find some places in Costa Rica with whole English native speakers communities and in those communities, the store clerks will speak English too. In fact, there are already churches where sermons are in English. In Limon they speak Patois (kind of a Caribbean combination of English, French and Spanish) so you can communicate better there and you’ll have more chances for somebody to understand and guide you when you come to Costa Rica. 


Chinese people started migrating to Costa Rica in the 19th century, mostly to Guanacaste, Limon and Puntarenas speaking Mandarin and Canton. Today, there are approximately 45.000 Chinese people and their descendancy living in Costa Rica. 


One of the biggest German communities in Central America is in Costa Rica and also from other countries that speak German as well as their descendancy. They have founded institutions like Goethe Institut, Humboldt Schule and German speaking churches.


Another big migrant group in Costa Rica are Italians. Not only people borned in Italy but also the migrant descendancy. San Vito de Java is a village where you can go and see Costa Ricans that speak Italian as a native tongue because a lot of Italian agriculturals came in the 19th century and they settled there.


Whether your native language is one of the mentioned above or French, Arab or Hebrew, you must certainly will find a tribe in Costa Rica where you can feel like you’re home even if it’s miles away.



Karen Ebanks

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