Which languages are spoken in Costa Rica?

Curious about Costa Rica language? Do you know which languages are spoken in Costa Rica? You may be surprised by the answer! Costa Rica’s official and predominantly-spoken language is Spanish. What you may not know is that there are indigenous languages still spoken today, as well as English dialects that were brought to Costa Rica by immigrants.

Maléku, Cabécar, Bribri, Guaymí, and Buglere are living local indigenous languages spoken by the descendants of the pre-Colombian people to this day. On the Caribbean Coast, you may hear an English-based creole language called Mekatelyu or Patua spoken by the Afro-Caribbean population. In Monteverde, you may hear an older dialect of English that surged after the Quakers settled there in the 1950s.

Costa Rican Spanish

Although Costa Rica’s official language is Spanish, it is very different from Spanish you will hear in Spain, Mexico and South America for example. Costa Rican Spanish forms part of Central American Spanish, and has its own set of vocabulary words that may sound foreign even to a native Spanish speaker. This local dialect, known as “pachuco”, is also known as Costa Rican Spanish slang.

We have created a list of typical Tico words and phrases with their English counterparts in order to get you prepared for Costa Rica. Remember, the more Spanish you learn, and especially the local words, the more friends you will make. Let’s start with a Tico Spanish lesson:

  • Tico: Costa Rican
  • Pura Vida: The quintessential Tico phrase that has can be translated into various English phrases. It can mean awesome, everything is good or great, enjoy life or even hello, thank you or goodbye.
  • Mae: Usually used between friends, this phrase can mean friend or dude.
  • Macha: Blond woman
  • Tuanis: Cool
  • Salado: Tough luck
  • Jale: Let’s go
  • Chunche: Thing
  • Soda: A small and basic eatery that usually serves Costa Rican meals.
  • Pulperia: A small grocery store
  • Bomba: Gas station
  • Cien metros: One block
  • Pirata: Unauthorized taxi

We have also included a list of essential Spanish words and phrases that will be of a great assistance while you are in Costa Rica

The Basics

    • Sí: Yes
    • No: No
    • Por favor: Please
    • Gracias: Thank you
    • De nada: You’re welcome
    • Disculpe: Excuse me (you can use this phrase to apologize or before asking for directions)

Exclamations

      • ¡Hola!: Hi!
      • ¡Buenos días!: Good morning!
      • ¡Buenas tardes!: Good afternoon!
      • ¡Buenas noches!: Good night!
      • ¡Adiós!: Goodbye!

Questions and Answers

      • ¿Cómo se llama usted? – Me llamo: What is your name? – My name is
      • ¿De dónde es usted? – Soy de …: Where are you from? – I’m from
      • ¿Cómo está usted? – Bien, gracias – ¿Y usted? – How are you? – I’m good, thanks. – And yourself?
      • ¿Habla usted español? – No hablo español – Do you speak Spanish? – I do not speak Spanish.

Travel Phrases

        • ¿Dónde está? – Where is…?
        • ¿Cómo voy hasta el/la . . . ? – How do I get to…?
        • Izquierda – Left
        • Derecha – Right
        • Derecho – Straight (when someone tells you to siga derecho, it means to keep heading straight)
        • Calle – Street
        • Avenida – Avenue
        • Cuadra – Block
        • Norte – North
        • Sur – South
        • Este – East
        • West – Oeste

Useful Shopping Vocabulary

        • ¿Cuánto cuesta? – How much does it cost?
        • ¿Aceptan dólares? – Do you accept dollars?
        • ¿Aceptan tarjetas de crédito/tarjetas de débito? – Do you accept credit cards/debit cards?
        • ¡Solo estoy viendo! – I’m just looking!
        • Talla – Size
        • Menos – Less
        • Más – More
        • Grande – Large
        • Pequeño – Small
        • Más grande – Larger
        • Más pequeño – Smaller

Restaurants

        • ¿Tiene un menú en inglés? – Do you have an English menu?
        • Me gustaría… – I would like…
        • La cuenta por favor – The check please
        • Propina – Tip
        • Desayuno – Breakfast
        • Almuerzo – Lunch
        • Cena – Dinner

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