Learn These Words



To greatly enhance your time in Costa Rica, we strongly suggest learning these Spanish words. The Costa Ricans will be even more super friendly and more “discount” agreeable when they know that you are at least trying to speak “Español.”

You already know a whole bunch of words in Spanish, so use those words as guides to pronounce the vowels:

(“a” is always like in taco; “i” always like in si’; “o” always like in no; “e” always like in day; “u” always like in burrito or boo!

You have no excuse, its a helluva lot easier than English!

An easy way to learn Spanish is either with Rosetta Stone, Duo Lingo; or google it….

One more thought: The use of the term “Gringo” is not negative as in other latin countries, its just a descriptive term,

like gordo-fat, flaca-skinny, china for those with asian type of eyes, negro for those family members with the best tan; etc…

To learn Spanish for Costa Rica, we suggest you study diligently the words below.

Costa Rica – co-sta-ree-ca-Please pronounce the name of this country correctly. The “O” in spanish is ALWAYS “oh”. And who lives in Costa Rica? Ticos=males and Ticas=females, Gringos, Gringas, Chinos, Chinas, Latinos, Latinas, etc.

Jaco: ha CO NEVER EVER say: jay co….
Playa Hermosa: ply-ya air-Mo-sa This really will help you with Taxis!

¡Buenas! – bwe-nas – The simple, buenas is a standard greeting, and may be used morning, noon, or night, on the street, entering a store, everywhere. The “A” in Spanish is ALWAYS pronounced like the “A” in mama.

¿Hola, Cómo Está? – o la, co mo eh sta? -Hi or hello, how are you?

¿Muy bien, Gracias, y usted? mooee bee “n” , gra si ahs, ee oos-ted or ee two? – I’m fine thanks, and you? The ee two is for previously known people, or much younger than you.

¿Cuánto vale? – kwan-to val-eh – How much does it cost? In Mexico, and sometimes here, “cuanto cuesta”

¿Tiene cuartos? – T’yen-neh kwar-toes – Do you have any hotel rooms?

¿CUÁNTO? – kwan toe – How much? (Look as shocked as possible when hearing the answer!)

Pura Vida – Poo-ra Vee-da – this is the super famous Costa Rican phrase, and the answer to almost any question or comment. Usually as a greeting or replying to , “como esta” (how are you?)

CERVEZA cer-vey-sa is more commonly used by Costa Ricans, and hooray Jaco has lots of places to try Costa Rican excellent “micro brews” and we even have our own Micro brewery called “Puddlefish”, with great beers and excellent food. (Most Gringos order Imperial their first trip before trying the more “sophisticated” & expensive Bavaria -gold, light or dark, Another popular local beer is Pilsen or Bohemia and lately lots of European imports ). Ba-va-ree-a por fah-vor – I’d like a ……… please.

Taxi – Taxi Look for the officially licensed ones with meters called “maria” And know that its ok to ask to if they have a meter, Say “tiene maria?” when entering a cab. Tea n nay Ma ree a…..

¿Dónde está el banco? – Don-day es-tah el ban-co – Where is the bank? (don’t faint when you see the lines on payday at national banks. Go to the many private banks that exist.)

¿Dónde puedo cambiar plata? – Don-day pweh-do cam-bee-ar pla-ta – Where can I change money? (YOU MUST BRING YOUR PASSPORT TO CHANGE EVEN $20 AND OF COURSE BANKS PAY THE HIGHEST RATE!)

¿Dónde puedo comprar….? – Don-day pweh-do com-prar – Where can I buy….?

Si, yo quiero comprar una Hermosa bungalo de Jeff de CR beach. – See, joe kee yay ro com-prar oona Hermosa Bungalow de Jeff de CR Beach – Yes, I want to buy an Hermosa bungalow from Jeff of CR beach!

¿El menú, por favor? – el may new, por fa-vor – Menu, please?

¿La cuenta, por favor? – la kwen-ta por fa-vor – Check, please? (followed by funny hand scribbling movement!)

¿El bano, por favor? – el ban-yo por fa-vor – Bathroom please ALSO: Ser VEE cios Por fa vor

¡No molesta me! – no may mo-les-ta – Don’t bother me! Also “Sale” sa lay sa lay

¡Qué linda! – kay leen da – how pretty!

Está bien. – ess-ta byen – It’s fine or it’s ok

Hasta Luego. – ahs-ta luway-go – See you later. (used much more than adios)

Ciao or Chao. – Chow- Bye (lately more popular than hasta luego)

Con Mucho Gusto! – Con moo-cho goo-sto – My pleasure. (used instead of your welcome)

Que dicha! or Ay, que dicha! – eye, kay deecha- That’s great. (Effective with sarcasm!)

Drivers: please remember that traffic signs that read before a bridge “Ceda” means “yield right of way” -you have to stop! Also one cool thing here is the blinking of the brights to signal traffic cop or caution ahead.

Pedestrians BE CAREFUL: please remember to look both ways, because unlike many places in the States, YOU HAVE NO RIGHTS here!!!

For Cellular phone users: Messages like “su llamada no se puede ser tramitada en esto momento” (your call cannot be completed at this time) are frequent. Placing a call to a known number sometimes obtains the message “el numero marcado no corresponde a ningun de nuestros clientes” (the number called does not correspond to any one of our subscribers) is another frequent message received by callers.

The messages are produced when the cellular phone being called is within an area that is not functioning or has poor coverage.


A – always pronounced ah, as in mama

E – always pronounced as a long A as in “play” or Chile (CHI lay)

I -always pronounced ee, as in feet, bee

O -always pronounced as oh. Its CO sta Rica, never ever Casta Rica,

U -always pronounced oo, as in too, pool.

B -Similar to the English ‘b’ but less between vowels it is pronounced very softly so that the lips touch only slightly.

C -As in English, before a, o and u it is pronounced as a K, as in can Costa Rica

Before e or i the c is pronounced as an s as in cent.

CC – Pronounced very similar to the cc in accident

D – Similar to the English ‘d’ in ‘bed’

G – Before A, O or U it is pronounced as the G in get

– Before E or I it is pronounced like the English H but more emphatic.

H – Always silent in Spanish. Hotel is pronounced otel

J Always pronounced like the English H but more emphatic

LL Always pronounced like J in Joe (Spanish example: yo )

ñ – This Spanish character is pronounced NY as in canyon

R – Slightly trilled

When it is the first letter of a word it is strongly trilled.

RR – Always strongly trilled except in Costa Rica

V -In Spain and many parts of South America there is no difference between the ‘v’ and the ‘b’ WHICH is why words so often misspelled!

Y -pronounced as the English Y except when it stands alone (y is Spanish for and) then it is pronounced ee as in tree

Z – In South America the ‘z’ is pronounced as the English S;

QUE – pronounced kay

QUI -pronounced kee as in keep

GUE – pronounced ge as in guest, and get

GUI – pronounced gee as in geese

GUA- guacamole, anyone? (sometimes soft g, like wuacamole…

The remaining letters are pronounced as they are in English with only very slight variations.

Helpful Words and Phrases


I’d like to introduce you to Mr. Vargas. Quisiera presentarle al señor Vargas. kee-SYEH-rah preh-sehn-TAHR-leh ahl seh-NYOHR VAHR-gahs

Pleased to meet you. Encantado. ehn-kahn-TAH-doh

A pleasure. Mucho gusto. MOO-choh GOOS-toh

I am Ramon Diaz.

Soy Ramon Díaz. soy Ramon Díaz

This is my wife. Es mi esposa. ehs mee ehs-POH-sah

·colleague. ·colega. ·koh-LEH-gah

How are you? Cómo está usted? KOH-moh ehs-TAH oos-TEHD?

Fine, thanks. And you? Bien, gracias. Y usted? BYEHN, GRAH-syahs. Ee oo-TEHD?

Where do you live? Dónde vive? DOHN-deh VEE-veh?

I live in the United States. Vivo en los Estados Unidos. VEE-voh ehn lohs ehs-TAH-dohs oo-NEE-dohs


It’s so good to see you. Un gusto verle. oon GOOS-toh VEHR-leh

Would you like a drink? Le gustaría una bebida? leh goos-tah-REE-ah OO-nah beh-BEE-dah?

With pleasure. Con gusto. kohn GOOS-toh

Cheers! ¡Salud! sah-LOOD!

Gladly. Con mucho gusto. kohn MOO-choh GOOS-toh


Do you speak English? Habla usted inglés? AH-blah oos-TEHD en-gles?

I speak a little Spanish.

Hablo un poco de español.

AH-bloh oon POH-koh deh ehs-pah-NYOHL

Can you understand me? Me comprende? meh kohm-PREHN-deh?

Please repeat that. Puede repetir eso? PWE-deh rreh-peh-teer EH-soh?

Can you write that? Me lo escribe? meh loh ehs-KREE-beh?

How do you say…..in Spanish? Cómo se dice…..en español?

KOH-moh seh DEE-seh…..ehn ehs-pah-NYOHL?

Could you translate this? Puede traducir esto? PWEH-deh trah-doo-SEER EHS-toh?


0 zero cero

1 one uno (m), una (f)

2 two dos

3 three tres

4 four cuatro

5 five cinco

6 six seis

7 seven siete

8 eight ocho

9 nine nueve

10 ten diez

11 eleven once

12 twelve doce

13 thirteen trece

14 fourteen catorce

15 fifteen quince

16 sixteen dieciséis

17 seventeen diecisiete

18 eighteen dieciocho

19 nineteen diecinueve

20 twenty veinte

21 twenty-one veintiuno

22 twenty-two veintidós

30 thirty treinta

31 thirty-one treinta y uno

40 forty cuarenta

50 fifty cincuenta

60 sixty sesenta

70 seventy setenta

80 eighty ochenta

90 ninety noventa

100 one hundred cien

101 one hundred and one ciento uno

200 two hundred doscientos

300 three hundred trescientos

400 four hundred cuatrocientos

500 five hundred quinientos

600 six hundred seiscientos

700 seven hundred setecientos

800 eight hundred ochocientos

900 nine hundred novecientos

1,000 one thousand mil

2,000 two thousand dos mil

1,000,000 one million un millón

2,000,000 two million dos millones

Days of the Week

Monday lunes

Tuesday martes

Wednesday miércoles

Thursday jueves

Friday viernes

Saturday sábado

Sunday domingo

Spanish Days of the Week Flash Cards (requires a Java enabled browser)


January enero

February febrero

March marzo

April abril

May mayo

June junio

July julio

August agosto

September septiembre

October octubre

November noviembre

December diciembre

Spanish Months Flash Cards (requires a Java enabled browser)


napkin servilleta

fork tenedor

spoon cuchara

knife cuchillo

plate plato

water agua

bread pan

butter mantequilla

tea té

coffee café

salt sal

pepper pimienta

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black negro

blue azul

brown marrón, café

green verde

grey gris

orange naranja, anaranjado

pink rosado

purple violeta, morado

red rojo

white blanco

yellow amarillo

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husband esposo, marido

wife esposa

children niños

son hijo

daughter hija

father padre, papá (informal)

mother madre, mamá (informal)

brother hermano

sister hermana

grandfather abuelo

grandmother abuela

uncle tío

aunt tía

nephew sobrino

niece sobrina

cousin primo (m), prima (f)

brother-in-law cuñado

sister-in-law cuñada

father-in-law suegro

mother-in-law suegra

son-in-law yerno

daughter-in-law nuera

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left Izquierda

right Derecha

far Lejos

near Cerca

street Calle

avenue Avenida

north Norte

south Sur

east Este

west Oeste

The Guide to Costa Rican Spanish by Christopher Howard M.A.

Words That Don’t Need Translating

There are literally thousands of Spanish words that are easy to understand for English speakers. All you have to do is concentrate on the English within these words and pronounce them with a Spanish accent.

Easy Words:

banana – banana

chocolate – chocolate

color – color

doctor – doctor

hotel – hotel

idea – idea

natural – natural

radio – radio

taxi – taxi

diccionario – dictionary

dieta – diet

moderno – modern

música – music

béisbol – baseball

café – coffee, cafe

comercial – commercial

especial – special

estúpido – stupid

familia – family

fotografía – photography

limón – lemon

minuto – minute

nervioso – nervous

noviembre – November

operación – operation

Refrigerador(a) – refrigerator

teléfono – telephone

vaccación – vacation

¡Buenos días!

bway-nohs dee-ahs

Hello! / Good morning! ¡Buenas tardes!

bway-nahs tard-ays

Good afternoon! ¡Buenas noches!

bway-nahs noh-chays

Good evening! / Good night!

¡Hola! / ¡Chao!

oh-lah / chow

Hi! / Bye! Adiós.


Good bye. Por favor.

por fah-bor


Hasta luego.

ah-stah loo-ay-go

See you later. Hasta pronto.

ah-stah prohn-toh

See you soon. Hasta mañana.

ah-stah mahn-yahn-ah

See you tomorrow.

(Muchas) Gracias.

(moo-chahs) grah-see-ahs

Thank you (very much). De nada.

day nah-dah

You’re welcome. Bienvenidos



Lo siento

loh see-ehn-toh

I’m sorry Con permiso / Perdón

kohn pehr-mee-soh / pehr-dohn

Excuse me / Pardon ¡Vamos!


Let’s go!

¿Cómo está usted?

koh-moh ay-stah oo-sted

How are you? (formal) ¿Cómo estás?

koh-moh ay-stahs

How are you? (informal) ¿Qué tal?

kay tahl

How’s it going?

Bien / Muy bien

bee-ehn / moy bee-ehn

Good / Very good Mal / Muy mal / Más o menos

mahl / moy mahl / mahs oh may-nohs

Bad / Very bad / OK Sí / No

see / noh

Yes / No

¿Cómo se llama usted?

koh-moh say yah-mah oo-sted

What is your name? (formal) ¿Cómo te llamas?

koh-moh tay yah-mahs

What is your name? (informal) Me llamo…

may yah-moh

My name is…

Mucho gusto. / Encantado.

moo-choh goo-stoh / en-cahn-tah-doh

Nice to meet you. Igualmente.


Same here. Señor / Señora / Señorita

sayn-yor / sayn-yor-ah / sayn-yor-ee-tah

Mister / Mrs. / Miss

¿De dónde es usted?

day dohn-day ehs oo-sted

Where are you from? (formal) ¿De dónde eres?

day dohn-day eh-rehs

Where are you from? (informal) Yo soy de…

yoh soy day

I’m from…

¿Cuántos años tiene usted?

quahn-tohs ahn-yohs tee-ay-nay oo-sted

How old are you? (formal) ¿Cuántos años tienes?

quahn-tohs ahn-yohs tee-ayn-ays

How old are you? (informal) Yo tengo _ años. yoh tayn-goh ahn-yohs

I am __ years old.

¿Habla usted español?

ah-blah oo-sted eh-spahn-yol

Do you speak Spanish? (formal) ¿Hablas ingles?

ah-blahs een-glehs

Do you speak English? (informal) (No) Hablo…

noh ah-bloh

I (don’t) speak…

¿Entiende usted? / ¿Entiendes?

ehn-tyen-deh oo-sted / ehn-tyen-dehs

Do you understand? (formal / informal) (No) Entiendo.

noh ehn-tyen-doh

I (don’t) understand. Yo (no lo) se.

yoh noh loh seh

I (don’t) know.

¿Puede ayudarme?

pweh-deh ah-yoo-dar-meh

Can you help me?

Claro que sí

klah-roh keh see

Of course

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