Now that you will begin your study at ILISA shortly, we would like to tell you a little bit about the language learning process.
Learning a foreign language is a gradual process that takes time, persistence, and motivation. ILISA’s role in this process is to create the ideal situation in which to learn. Apart from everything that we provide for our students, the key factor to successful learning will be the effort that you put into the process. Successful language learning depends not only on aptitude, i.e. intellectual capacity, but on a student’s desire and persistence also. You may have the potential to be a brilliant language learner, but if you fail to put effort into the process, chances are you will not learn very much.
Besides your persistence, another important trait that influences the learning process is an emotional one: your attitude. Research has shown that a positive attitude towards a country, its people, and its culture, helps language learners maintain their interest long enough to achieve language mastery.
Motivation plays a strong role in the success rate of students. For example, many people tend to do very well because they need Spanish for career purposes. Whatever your motivational purpose may be, understand that it will play a role in the success you have at learning another language.
What every student should understand is that like all long-term enterprises, chances for success in language learning are improved if you set realistic goals. An objective as vague as “I want to learn Spanish” is not specific enough. You cannot expect to be able to understand, speak, read, and write a foreign language after a relatively short period of study. Please understand that language learning entails various stages of achievement, from the simple, to the more complex. To achieve success at any given level requires a certain amount of practice. By setting modest, realistic objectives for yourself along the way, you can more easily keep your level of interest and motivation high.
Another important concept to keep in mind is to let errors work for you, not against you. Errors are an inevitable part of the learning process. Try to look at them as a potential source of information and as a way of improving your skills. It is very important to not let your fear of making mistakes interfere with your participation both in and outside of the classroom. Remember that language learning is a gradual process, which requires a lot of practice. This includes making errors and being corrected. Don’t hold back and wait for that magic moment when you think you will be able to speak error free. Without practice, that moment will never come.
Yet another very important facet of language learning is practice. If you intend only to come to class during the week without making an attempt to continue with Spanish after school, you will quickly lose much of what you have gained. There are many different methods of practicing what you have learned. One of the best, of course, is to practice with a family, which is provided through our homestay program. Another is to take homework seriously and review the information that you have learned every night. Another, and perhaps the most enjoyable, is to go out as much as possible to practice what you have learned with native speakers of the language in a more spontaneous situation. Whatever method you choose, make sure to practice the language as much as possible so that the things that you have studied during class will stay with you.
These are just a few, yet important insights on language learning. This information should help you to set reasonable objectives and avoid the disillusionment that may occur with a goal as vague as, “I want to learn Spanish”. If you would like to know more about this subject, we recommend you check out the book: “How To Be a More Successful Language Learner” by Joan Rubin and Irene Thompson. You are also welcome to borrow this book from the ILISA library during your stay in Costa Rica.
Our restaurant, “Entre Amigos,” found on ILISA’s terrace, can provide you with snacks and lunches. In addition, there are a great number of restaurants in San Pedro. There are many places to eat around the University of Costa Rica, on Avenida Central, or on one of its many side streets. Whatever your budget or taste for food may be, you will have no trouble finding a restaurant. When you first arrive, check with your fellow students as to where the good places are.
Restaurants, hotels and nightclubs are required to include a 15% sales tax and 10% service charge in all bills. Although the 10% service charge is included in your bill, it is not uncommon to add an extra 5 – 10% gratuity for good service. If you get a menu and it says “I.V.I.” somewhere at the bottom, sales tax is included. If it reads “más I.V.” you still have to add it to the prices listed in the menu.
Addresses and phone numbers of several doctors and dentists and the major hospitals are available through our office staff. If you need a dentist, we recommend Andres Furtchgott Barrios (224-7703) or Dr. Eduardo Castro Sittenfield (290-2121), and for a doctor, Dr. Cabezas, or Dr. Longworth at Clinica Biblica at (221-3922). For gynecological or obstetrical care, we recommend Dr. Delia Ribas (221-2359).
If you have an emergency, you can go to urgencias (urgent care) at the Clinica Biblica in San Jose at Calle Central y Primera y Avenida 14. Though it’s an emergency room, the wait is usually short. No appointment is required and the cost of a visit is comparable to an office visit.
Like in most places in the world, machismo (sexism) is a part of the Costa Rican social structure. While the manifestations of machismo are sometimes more obvious here than in other places, the underlying structures are probably similar to those that you experience at home.
An unaccompanied woman will probably hear the flirtatious comments many Tico men will call out, such as mi amor, machita, or guapa. It’s annoying, but not threatening. (And the men who are making the comment really do intend it to be a compliment.) The best policy is to ignore them and keep walking.
As a general rule, women should try to be more formal in their interactions with men they encounter in everyday situations (taxi drivers, shopkeepers, etc.) as sometimes men mistake informality with an interest in forming a deeper relationship. For the same reason, it’s also a good idea to ride in the back seat of a cab instead of next to the driver.
Mail service in Costa Rica is quite efficient, especially if you consider the way “ticos” give directions. However, if friends and family want to mail you letters, tell them to use the ILISA’s mail PO BOX 1001, 2050 San Pedro, Costa Rica. Inform your friends about the length of your stay, and the approximate time a letter takes to arrive here. If you leave the school but are staying in Costa Rica and would like to continue using ILISA’s P.O. box for awhile, please inform the office staff so they will keep incoming letters and faxes for you. “Return to Sender” does not work in Costa Rica so ILISA can not return mail unless it has been paid for in advance.
Generally we suggest that discourage friends or relatives from sending packages while you are here, as they are likely to be tied up in customs for some time. Also the taxes charged on items sent to Costa Rica can be outrageous and may not arrive in its entirety.
If you want to mail letters or postcards, the post office in San Pedro can be found on the west side of the “plaza”, the big open area just 175 m. south of the church. The building is small with a red roof and is the second building from the corner. The central post office in San Jose is located on Calle Central, between Avenida 1 and 3.
ILISA sells a map of Costa Rica that includes a city map of San Jose as well as maps of National Parks. The map is very complete. For more complete information and more specific maps, you can consult The New Key to Costa Rica, Costa Rica guide by Lonely Planet, or any of several other travel guides.
We do not recommend changing money with “moneychangers” at the airport or anywhere. These people are often using counterfeit bills and are notorious for ripping people off.
The most common place to change money in Costa Rica is at any one of the banks; just be sure to bring your passport and be prepared to wait in a long line. As a student at ILISA, there is a much easier way to change your money. We provide this service to students twice a week. The process is the following: give us your traveler’s checks or your cash between 7:30 and 10:15 a.m. At approximately 12 noon, we will have your colones waiting for you. Please make a note of this schedule since we will be unable to change your money at other times during the week. The school charges a small commission to cover the bank’s commission and our expenses.
Credit and debit card users can receive cash at several of the banks or ATM machines here in the San Jose area. Your best bets are at the Banco de San José ATM in the 3rd floor of the mall and at the A Toda Hora (ATH) machine located at the outlet mall 3 blocks north of ILISA. American Express card holders should contact the local representatives at the Banco de San José in down town San José.
To pay for you classes, ILISA accepts both US dollars, colones, travelers checks and credit cards, with no surcharge on all credit card transactions.
Costa Rica has bank notes in 1,000, 2,000, 5,000 and 10,000 colón denominations. Coins are in denominations of 5, 10, 25, 50, 100 and 500. Keep a few of the 25, 50, and 100 Colon coins handy for the public telephones and for the bus.
As of April 2010 the exchange rate was 522 colones for 1 Dollar. The rate does change slowly due to the devaluation of the colon (about 1 colón monthly). Also, bring only US dollars because it can be difficult or impossible to change other currencies. Make sure dollar bills are not ripped or stained, for the banks will not change those.
For complete information on the national parks, get yourself a copy of the “New Key to Costa Rica” or get the book “The National Parks of Costa Rica”, available at the major bookstores in San Jose For more information you can also call the National Park Service at 192, or stop by the office located on Calle 25 between Avenidas 8 and 10.
Park entrance fees are $6. It is no longer necessary to purchase tickets ahead of time.
Newspapers and magazines are vailable in English, Spanish, and other languages at bookstores, supermarkets, newsstands, and other outlets. Some to check out are:
The Bookshop in Plaza Del Sol. English bookstore with many magazines, books and newspapers, including the USA Today, Herald Tribune, New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal.
7th Street Books (Calle 7, Avenidas 1/Central; 256-8251) run by two U.S. expatriates, boasts many shelves of contemporary English-language fiction and an excellent selection of books on tropical ecology.
If you want to go to a theater, movie or musical performance, get yourself a copy of “La Nacion”, the local newspaper, and look in the “VIVA” section to find out what’s happening. Thursday’s La Nacion contains a weekend entertainment section. The English-written publications “The Tico Times” (published on Fridays, and for sale at most newspaper stands) also has a calendar of events for your entertainment.
For safety’s sake, we recommend that you take taxis home after about 8 or 9pm.
The “weekend” starts on Wednesday night, so if you like going out and dancing all night long, San Jose has something for you. For a cold beer and good bocas after class, check out Omar Khayyam in San Pedro. The Jazz Cafe is another good meeting spot, offering live music almost every night. Also nearby are Caccios Pizza, or Tavarua in San Pedro. All three are good meeting points to start off a night on the town. Monday nights are also busy at El Cuartel de la Boca del Monte at Ave 1, Calle 21-23, close to Cine Magaly. Another popular place is the Centro Comercial El Pueblo located near Hotel Villa Tournon. It has a large number of discos, bars, and restaurants. Visit La Esmeralda at Ave. 2, Calle 5-7 to listen to mariachi bands starting after 10PM. You can also drop by here after the discotheques close. Finally, another place to meet the local crowd, especially the younger members, is Rio in Los Yoses, 150 m. west of the Burger King. Most large downtown hotels also have casinos. There are so many places to go and have fun, we couldn’t possibly list them all!