Spanish – poco a poco

First of all – check out my NEW SUPER CUTE LOGO in the above photo!  I’m loving it!  (See PS note below)…

OK, back to my post….  When we made the decision to move here, Greg and I started taking private Spanish lessons from a cool lady who came to our house in Dallas once a week. She was really awesome, and we dove into Spanish head first.

For a few months, at least.


Then life started becoming more hectic (as it tends to be in the States) – we were in the process of trying to sell our house, organize our move, and wrap up our Dallas life in general… and well, we were just too busy to study Spanish every night as well. So after 3 months of lessons, we gave it up, “for now”. We’d have plenty of time once we actually quit our jobs and moved to Costa Rica. Right?

Well… life tends to be kind of busy here in Costa Rica, also. I know you don’t believe me. And even though it’s a very different and good busy, I’d still classify it as a busy. Mainly it just takes longer to do things here, especially because we don’t have a car. Between hiking, working out, drinking coffee in the morning, taking the bus to town to do errands, baking, making bracelets, doing social media work for our blogs, getting together with friends, planning lunches and dinners (and when you cook from scratch, it takes quite a bit more planning and work then just popping a frozen dinner in a microwave)…  well – by the end of the day, I’d just much rather relax with a movie or book (instead of working and studying Spanish).

That’s not to say I don’t try to learn Spanish – at least a little bit here and there. I have some good friends who are bilingual (oh – to be bilingual!), and I ask them lots of questions and they are always patient and helpful to me.

I also do little things to practice when I’m by myself. If I’m baking, I count my measurements out loud in Spanish (uno, dos, tres, quatro…). Or if I’m making a bracelet and stringing 20 beads – I count them in Spanish. Now, even the teens(!) roll off my tongue without thinking: “catorce, quince, dieciséis, diecisiete…” – something I could not do without heavy pausing and thinking before I moved here. Going to the Feria (farmer’s market) is an excellent time to practice and learn money (except for the meat counter guy who insists on speaking English).

So, at least as far as numbers and money go, I’m getting it down… (what?  that’s a lot!).

One of the hardest things for me, is I took 4 years of German in high school – so German phrases pop into my head all the time, which is really maddening (but I’m sure would make Frau Borski proud). Then my Mom & I took a trip to Paris, France several years ago, and thanks to a crash course in French, sometimes French words pop into my head! Occasionally I mix it all up, just to irritate my hubby: “Bonjour, wie gents?  Ich bin sehr gut. Estoy bien. S’il vous plait.” (I know it doesn’t make sense, that’s not the point. The point is,  I’m speaking 3 languages!!).

It always seems to catch Greg by surprise when I do this – like at first he thinks I’m speaking all Spanish and he starts translating, but then he just shakes his head and stammers: “Jen – use your words!!” – meaning my Spanish words, of course.

When I think of when we first moved here – almost a year ago – how VERY little Spanish we knew, how we could barely say “Gracias” or “Buenos dias” without stumbling over ourselves…. Compared to now? Yes, I’m pretty proud of us. My hubby is much better at understanding Spanish conversations than me. He’s very clued in to sign language and body language, and if someone is talking to us in Spanish, Greg can usually determine at least the gist of what they are trying to say.

When I step back and listen to ourselves greeting people and exchanging pleasantries, my heart fills with pride. Even though we are just saying simple things, for sure, we speak them now with such ease and confidence.   And the best part – is that the locals really seem to understand what we are saying!

The other day, something really cool happened to me. We were at a restaurant, and the waitress gave us the menu – telling us Spanish was on one side and English on the other. How nice! A menu in English (pretty rare in Grecia).  Finally, I thought – I won’t have to work so hard to figure it out. I perused it thoroughly and took my time. It turned out they offered a wide selection of different foods – some Costa Rican typical fare, along with some American food, and several things looked good to me. My eyes caught on “Gordon blue” – which I’d seen a few times in sodas/restaurants here – and I thought WHY can’t they ever spell it right? They always call it “Gordon” instead of “Cordon”…  no matter, that’s what I had my eye on, and that’s what I ordered.

34-Chicken-Cordon-Bleu 2

After the waitress left (leaving the menu’s on the table in case we wanted something else later), I commented to Greg about the “Gordon blue” spelling. He looked at the menu, where I was pointing, and then patiently flipped it over and pointed to “Cordon Bleu”, and then the top of the menu which read “ENGLISH”.  !!!

NO WAY…. I was looking at the Spanish side of the menu the WHOLE time?!  And I understood it?! Wow.

That’s all for now! – Jen

PS – Logo artwork done by the fabulous Nicholas Bradley (let me know if you want his contact info).  Additional thanks to my awesome friend Anthony Williams (who wore some of my “man candy” at his wedding!) for setting me up with Nicholas.  And thanks to my great hubby for helping me with all my photoshop needs (and like, tons of other stuff, all the time).  

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21 Responses to Spanish – poco a poco

  1. Yes, Jen! Poco a poco – you are doing it!! Yay. When my mom moved to Nosara in Guanacaste 24 years ago, she didn’t speak Spanish. She learned in the mercado and she is a riot! She communicates – they know what she means, and I crack up. The ticos never laugh at her – only her daughter. Keep it up, Chica!

  2. Great blog! My wife and I would love to move to CR for two years once I retire in 5 years. She is Hispanic, with Spanish being her first language. We have been to CR about 5 or 6 times. We love the country. We are not sure where we want to live, but we both love beaches. It just gets so darn hot there in the summer. What area do y’all live in. Yes, we are from Texas…Austin.

    • Thank you Laird! I hope you guys move here once your retire, will be so much easier when you speak the language, for sure! We live in the Central Valley – little town called Grecia. Love the cooler temps in the elevations here!

  3. Delightful! I feel the same way — except that Paul and I both studied Italian (he also studied German!) and so Italian comes out sometimes instead of Spanish. We’ve finally decided to take REAL lessons here — I just want to understand a WHOLE paragraph in Spanish. But you are so right — just living here and interacting with Ticos makes the language slowly seep in. P.S. LOVE your logo! Perfect.

    • That’s funny Marilyn – with the Italian!…. you totally know what I mean, then. 🙂 And yes – I love how it just starts to seep in sometimes without you realizing it! And I totally respect you guys for taking real lessons (I just don’t have the time right now or the will!). THANKS on the logo!! 🙂

  4. The other day at a restaurant I constructed an entire sentence in Spanish in my head. Practiced it a few times in my head and then confidently told the waitress that the eggs and rice were very good but the plantain was amazing! All in Spanish!!! I was so proud. And I must have done ok because she told the cook who waived at me energetically and with a big smile at me as we left. Yes, Carol, poco a poco, mas y mas! PS Carol, what’s your mom’s name. I will look her up sometime here in Nosara. 🙂

  5. Hola Chica!

    Me encanta tu poste! Que chistosa eras. Sigue estudiando tu espanol, Jen Jen.

    Abrazos…… 🙂

  6. A few years ago, around Samara, a couple began a Mexican Restaurant. We happened to be here the first night of business and a group of us went to see how it turned out. Being used to Mexican restaurants in the northlands, it was easy to follow along their Spanish menu. On the English version they advertised “Small Donkeys” in lieu of Burritos…made the night worth while, although the food was terrible, service worse, and only survived almost a month…

  7. A habit I have acquired since being here is to go to Google translate before I go out to do an errand. I know a few key sentences, questions or words I will probably use. I then write them on a 3×5 card. This has been especially helpful at the hardware store. I keep intending to tape a 3×5 card to our dashboard with the following: discúlpeme, ¿te gustaría que te lleve? Excuse me, would you like a ride?

    • I do the same, Paul! Especially when I’m going to baking store or bracelet supply store (I do not go to the hardware store). Good idea on the ‘ride’!!! 🙂

  8. Hola Jen, good job!!!! like you said, poco a poco hablaras espanol!!!!! One way that it helps to learn spanish is when you watch movies, have the closed captions in Spanish. I love your logo!!! I would love to go to Costa Rica, at least for one year, after all the beautiful things I have heard about that country!!!!

    • Thanks so much! And yes, very good idea on the movies – in fact we have a movie theatre in town with movies (with English subtitles) – so that is helpful too. Thanks on the logo too! 🙂

  9. Well done you, Jen! What an enormous challenge, and of course it gets more difficult the older we get, but filled with admiration at your desire to continue. And I know you’ll succeed. Probably without realizing how natural it’s all becoming.
    My mom always used to say, if you’re going to eat an elephant, you’ve got to take it one bite at a time.
    (or eat a chicken in this case). Cheers to you! xx
    And I ADORE the new logo!

    • Thanks Shelley! I’ll hope for the “succeeding without realizing how natural it’s all becoming” route! 🙂 lol I think I’ve become lazy in my old age… And THANKS on the logo! 🙂 xoxo

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