Saturday, November 28, 2009

Learn Spanish for free!

A friend of mine shared this link with me, which I will share with you. He's learning Portuguese, and I'm thinking I'll try either that, or refresh my French, or maybe do something completely different and try Arabic (which I've always wanted to learn).

Foreign Service Institute Language Courses

I know at least a few of you out there read this blog because you're planning on moving down to Costa Rica (or thinking about it, at least). If so, I implore you to, if you don't already, learn some basic Spanish! You'll find life here a lot more pleasant, and you'll get ripped off a lot less (yep, the rumors are true: Gringos who can't communicate in Spanish are likely to get charged more). You might still get someone who tries to charge you more, but if you can communicate (and argue) your point in Spanish, well... you get what I'm saying?

One of the most annoying things anyone has ever said to me on the subject was back in college. A girl in one of my classes was planning on coming down here to Costa Rica for a year, like, you know, to surf and have fun and stuff? (That last bit needs to be said in Californian -- hee hee...) I was surprised, and asked her if she knew any Spanish. She said, "No, but like, doesn't everyone there speak English?" And then I was all, "Seriously?"

If you have any of these delusions as well, no, not everyone speaks English. Many people speak very basic English; some people speak English really well. But to go to a foreign country and expect people to speak your language is beyond rude -- learn their language, even if all you can manage before you get there is a few simple phrases. Trust me, it goes a long way!

And now you have one less excuse for doing so, as I've just given you a link to a whole Spanish course for free!


  1. BY FAR my biggest frustration EVER in LIFE. I want to learn, and eventually I will..... I know a million spanish words, but when they talk, I hear, "blah, blah,blah...........................blah,blah", it's embarrassing how long I've been here and how difficult it is for me. I know everything I suppose to do.... but damn! I'm so jealous of YOU.

  2. Michael, how long have you lived here? I've been here almost 10 years, and it was definitely like that for me in the beginning (well, ok, for quite a while!). Watching soaps (or as Mrs. P. says, "the stories") in Spanish helps a lot. But it does take time, lots of it, to "hear" in Spanish. The job I took back in July has helped immensely with that -- though everyone there speaks English, they also speak Spanish, so I'm surrounded by Spanish speakers and sort of forced to make my brain understand. It does get easier, I promise! :-)

  3. Raven,

    I just read your 2007 post on Lemongrass Thai restaurant, and now I'm reading this post, and.....are you my long lost identical twin sister? I live in Atlanta, GA, USA, and am a tree-hugging, liberal neo-hippie vegan too! And I love cats! And I'm in the process of switching to veganism from being mostly vegetarian with the occasional fish/oyster in my diet. But we're transitioning to veganism during 2010.

    My husband and I are honeymooning in Costa Rica for 2 weeks through Xmas and New Year's, starting on 12/20. I did entomological research in CR for less than a week in college, but this is my esposo's first time to CR, or anywhere outside the U.S. in the western hemisphere (he's from Kyrgyzstan). We're very excited (me probably more so), and I'm now researching vegan/vegetarian-friendly restaurants in San Jose on and I also Googled and found your post on Lemongrass, after a macrobiotic person on recommended it to me. We're touring with and no meals are included, so we're on our own with dining out vegan style. I will peruse your blog more, but if you have a ready list of places we can eat around San Jose, that would be greatly appreciated.

    I need to brush up on my Spanish, too (which means i need to re-learn the basics), so thanks for this post and link also. I'm also studying Coffee Break Spanish podcast on iTunes, but that's all Spanish Spanish, not Central American Spanish. My esposo knows no Spanish, but he does speak fluent Russian and Kyrgyz, so if you know of any Russian restaurants in CR, let us know too. :)

    I really like your blog and all the cool sidebar links like pet adoption, and I will consider purchasing a guidebook through your page so the kitties get the money.

    If you feel like it, feel free to check out my blogger blogs at: and

    I can't wait to be in CR again!

    Rebecca Kerimbaev, the newlywed formerly known as Rebecca Byrd

  4. Hey Rebecca! Thanks for stpping by and the great comments! That makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. :-)

    Ok, restaurants first: I haven't been back to Lemongrass since that first time; it's pretty expensive and not terribly worth it. I hate to say it, but it's true! There aren't that many great strictly vegetarian restaurants around, so esposo and I end up eating pretty much anywhere that has decent food. Some of my favorites are Little Israel in Escazu for great falafel sandwiches, Lubnan downtown San Jose, Tin Jo in San Jose, Pan e Vino is all over the place, you can always get good pizza or past there. I wish there was a good Russian restaurant; that would be great! I haven't had good Russian food since I was in California, and before that with my grandma (who was from the Ukraine). mmmm... borscht... and pierogis...

    Back to reality: Check out also. There are lots of reviews there, so you can get a feel for places before trying them out. There's also a place we stop at for the vegetarian bento box every now and again; of course I can't remember the name of it. Sensu? Perhaps. I'll have to ask esposo. We just had brunch at MiSala in Escazu -- probably nothing you couldn't get at Denny's back in the U.S., except it has fantastic, loungey atmosphere that I love. Dinners are kind of pricey, but I just love that place. It's nice for a relaxing night out!

    Congratulations, by the way! I'm sure you and your new esposo will have a great time here! What college did you go to? I took one entomology class at UCSC, but the prof pretty much drove me up a wall. I ended up sticking with plants. :-D

    I will definitely check out your blogs as well! Hi to the kitties!

  5. Raven,

    Doh! Can you believe? is January 29 and I am JUST now seeing your reply for the first time ever. I feel so stupid. I guess I'm so used to getting email alerts when people leave comments on my own blog, or email alerts from Facebook, or email alerts from Medpedia and a dozen other websites/blogs I follow that I was waiting for an email alert to let me know you'd responded. When I didn't get one I assumed you hadn't. Didn't even remember to come back to your blog and check if you'd replied. Oh well. Thanks in retrospect although I wish I would've thanked you in advance for your advice.

    We didn't make it to any of those places I see you've mentioned. However, we did what you do and just found vegan food where ever we ended up, which was surprisingly easy. We mostly lived on casados vegetarianos. LOL But they were good, and different at every place. Surprisingly one of the best casados we had was at a seafood restaurant called Marlin in Manuel Antonio. Also Doña Lela in the suburbs north of San Jose had a hearty casado. Other than casados, we got variety from seeking out international restaurants, like Italian, Cantonese, and Japanese places, which were abundant. And then, we did find a few vegetarian restaurants that were listed on Our favorite was probably Tzu Jan Vegetarian House in Escazu (have you been there?).

    I invite you to take a look at my photos of the food from many restaurants we visited all over Costa Rica (about 20 of them) -- you might get a kick out of it and even discover some new places. Here's the URL:

    Yes we are obsessive compulsive photographers and food is not safe from us either. Just looking at this gallery always makes me ravenous. Speaking of ravens, we just watched a fascinating "Nature" episode called "Ravens." I'm a big birder and love ravens; I'm guessing you do too. Here's more info on that show:

    And more of our pics from our honeymoon in Costa Rica:
    I still have a LOT more to post as we took about 1700 pics in 2 weeks!

    Thanks again,
    Rebecca Kerimbaev