Costa Rica is ranked as one of the most visited destinations in the world - tourism and particularly ‘eco-tourism' as well as other international business
, forms major income sources for the country. Therefore, english
is an increasingly desired skill. english
classes are included in the curriculum of most Costa Rican schools (although not always in rural areas) and some young people also attend outside tutoring or take part in specialized english
courses through private institutions.
As with any context, student needs vary. However, common problems for Costa Rican learners of english
can be discussed.
speakers learning english
frequently have problems with pronunciation because of the differences between the two languages' sound systems. spanish
speakers, therefore, often have trouble distinguishing between words like “beat” and “bit.” They may also confuse the consonants “v” and “b” and the “s” as in “Sue” with the sound of “z” in “zoo.” Since spanish
has an “e” before “s” on word beginnings, many find an initial “s” difficult to pronounce. They frequently add an “e” sound, which makes “sock” into “esock.” (Farnen, 2012). Costa Rican speakers often find it difficult to pronounce the “th” sound in “thanks”. There is no sound like that in Latin American spanish
so they want to say it with just a t, d or f sound and not place the tongue out between the lips. This can be explained by comparing the way that a spaniard
would pronounce “gracias”, like “grathias”. (Newton, 2006).
Many false cognates cause confusion for Costa Rican learners. These pairs sound alike but have different meanings, e.g. “exit” and “exito” (success). In addition, Germanic components of english
, such as phrasal verbs like "look for," are often more difficult for spanish
speakers than the Latin or french
-derived vocabulary. (Farnen, 2012).
A major problem for the spanish
learner is that there is no one-to-one correspondence in the use of the tenses. So, for example, a spanish
learner might incorrectly use a simple tense instead of a progressive or a future one: She has a shower instead of She's having a shower; I help you after school instead of I'll help you after school. The formation of interrogatives or negatives in english
may be difficult for beginners. The absence of an auxiliary in such structures in spanish
may cause learners to say: Why you say that? / Who he saw? / Do you saw him? / I no see him. / I not saw him. spanish
word order is generally Subject-Verb-Object, like english
. However, spanish
allows more flexibility than english
, and generally places at the end of the sentence words that are to be emphasized, resulting in spoken and written problems. (Coe in Swan & Smith, 1987).
is phonetic, whereas the irregularities of english
in this respect cause problems when spanish
learners write a word they first learn in spoken language or say a word first learnt in written language. A specific problem concerns the spelling of english
words with double letters. spanish
has only 3 double-letter combinations cc, ll, rr. english
, in comparison, has 5 times as many. spanish
learners often reduce english
double letters to a single one, or double a letter unnecessarily; for example hopping for the present participle of hope. (Coe in Swan & Smith, 1987).
Culturally, there can be challenges with discipline for teaching children
in Costa Rica. children
generally are free to roam and play and they love to interact and have fun. This is wonderful in the classroom in the sense that the children
participate well in activate activities. However, it can be difficult to focus the students attention and quiet down behavior after a fun, interactive game. In this way, it is generally better to complete the study stage always before the activate stages (and select engage activities carefully) and save the games etc for the final stage, rather than patchwork lessons that incorporate activate stages earlier. (Newton, 2006).
The major cultural element in Costa Rica is “pura vida” (pure life). This translates as a very relaxed, laid back attitude to life. Again this can be a good thing in the classroom, as people are generally fairly open minded, polite, tolerant and patient. However, the down side can be that students come late to class, may not complete homework tasks or revise work and also may not prepare for exams. The motivation/efforts of students can sometimes be low in relation to this. ”. (Newton, 2006).
Another issue for learners may be knowledge of grammatical structures etc. Education levels can vary, and while there are many highly educated people in Costa Rica, there are also many adults who have only completed primary education, particularly in rural areas where adults have left school as children
to work in family farms/business
es etc. In this way, teacher
s will need to take extra time to teach these structures and/or change the teaching style to cater to the needs of these kinds of students ”. (Newton, 2006).
Participants of a past tesol
convention “Global challenges: Empowerment in Teaching english
Innovations” held in San Jose included a broad cross-section of Costa Rican english teacher
s. When questioned about the greatest challenges that they face, responses included that “students feel afraid of participating and speaking in the target language” and “(a challenge is) to make my students speak english
not only in class but also outside. We need to create an english
culture, which is hard. The worst of all is that my students' proficiency in english
is high!” (tesol
s at the convention expressed concern about the academic achievement of Nicaraguan students whose parent had migrated to Costa Rica in search of work. One teacher
from a rural public elementary school described the situation of her Nicaraguan students: “Students from Nicaragua with hunger, families with many children
, . . . . Parents from Nicaragua don't know how to write and read but want a better future for their children
.” A number of teacher
s who taught in rural areas also talked about students who dropped out of school seasonally because they were needed to work. (tesol
The problem of discrimination was also highlighted: “Students make fun of others—just by their tone of voice; which makes them feel uncomfortable and unable to speak.” Another common challenge was differentiating instruction to meet the needs of students at varying levels of ability, including students with special needs. (tesol
In conclusion, there are a number of language differences as well as cultural, social and political factors which contribute to problems for english
learning in Costa Rica.
Difficulties for esl spanish
Students” Farnen, K. (Sourced 19/3/12) http://www.ehow.com/list7444659common-difficulties-esl
“Problems for learners in Costa Rica” Newton, T (Posted 8/9/06) http://www.tefl
“The differences between english
”, Frankfurt International School (Sourced 19/3/12) http://esl
.htm from Coe, N. in Swan, M. & Smith, B. Learner english
: A teacher
to interference and other problems. (1987) Cambridge University Press.
“Costa Rican and US teacher
s face similar challenges” tesol
News (Sourced 19/3/12) http://www.tesol