All posts by Christopher Howard

About Christopher Howard

Learning the idiomatic expressions of another language will be a guide to understanding the humor and character of that culture. In case you don’t know, idiomatic expressions are common words or phrases used in place of direct speech. The individual words within the phrases don't correlate with their meaning. Each language has idiomatic phrases peculiar to it, making translations difficult for non-native speakers. Idioms can change within a single language, across borders or regionally within one country.

To be Climbing the Walls

Angelito literally is an angel but in Costa Rica can mean a child or criminal
Arrugar el pichel is to frown or make a face
Bolados are advice or tips
Botar el tapón or destapar el tamal mean to reveal or uncover information like corruption
Chelo is short for the name Marcelo
Chotear is to make fun of someone
Deschingarse is to remove clothing.
Empujado/a is a person who works hard or has a lot of drive.
Guamazo is a big blow or hit
Lágrimas are large stones or boulders but literally means tears.
Marimba is not a musical instrument in this case but a lot of young brothers and sisters.
Meter un gol is to score in soccer or deceive someone
Perrera is a paddy wagon
Ponerse color de hormiga is when a situation becomes difficult
Subirse por las paredes is to be climbing the walls when one is upset
Tirar la Chinita is to say something indirectly about someone
Vaso de agua is an easy woman
Venado literally means a deer but can refer to the husband of an adulteress
Zarandear is to shake or push someone

An informal soccer game

A todo pulmón is to shout
Echarse or pegarse una mejenga is to play a pick-up or informal game of soccer
Entrar con los taco de frente is to confront something head-on
Estar en capilla ardiente is to be in trouble
Estar puras tejas is to be well or estar pura vida as we say here
Gatazo a smart, resourceful or clever person
Inteliburro/a is word play for a dumb person. It is a combination of inteligente (intelligent) and burro (donkey).
Jaibo is a stupid person
La ve peluda or la ve ofe is when something is going badly for someone
Pellejo is an ugly old person (woman) and is a very offensive term
Por aquello means just in case something happens. En caso de que means the same thing.
Pura tuza is when something is of bad quality
Se le bajaron las medallas is when a person is humbled or has to come down to earth
Ser como dos gotas de agua is to be identical like twins
Ser pipa is to be very intelligent, smart or a brain

To brag

  • Botar el tapón is to be deceived by someone.
  • Chiflón or Ráfaga is a gust of or short burst of air. Ráfaga is also a bust of bullets like from a machine gun.
  • Dejar en capilla ardiente is to bother someone.
  • El buen pa is short for el Buen Pastor which is the woman’s prison in Costa Rica.
  • El papá de los tomates refers to a person who is a “big shot.”
  • Fiesta a todo mecate is a good party or event.
  • Jalar las orejas means to scold someone.
  • Majo is short for the name María José.
  • Melonazos refers to a million dollars or a million colones.
  • Nombrar a dedo is to hand pick someone to do something.
  • Oijoto or las tres letras is slang for the OIJ which is Costa Rica’s criminal investigative organization.
  • Pararse de uñas is to get upset. Parársele la peluca means the same thing.
  • Pega is a person who is a pain in the neck, indigestion or anything the impedes your progress like a traffic jam.
  • Presi is short for president.
  • Rajar is to brag about something.
  • Sin vela en el entierro is to blame someone who is not guilty.

To be on its last legs

A cachete is something good or having everything
Chivearse is to get mad
Chorpa – is slang for jail in Costa Rica. El tabo is also slang for jail. La cárcel is the correct term.
Echarse un taco de ojo is to look at eye candy (women)
Espantárselais to scare the hell out of someone
Estar pa’l tigre is to be on its last legs
Ganarse la jama is to earn one’s living. Ganarse la vida is the correct expression.
Guada is short for the town of Guadalupe
Mamulón is something that is large in size
Míster means mister or señor
Mop is buddy or dude
Pacha – a small bottle of booze
Nacho is something that is fun or funny
Peludo is slang for a dog. The term Zaguate is also used for dog in Costa Rica.
Ponerse como agua para chocolate is to be boiling mad or angry
Pura posta is something that is very good
Se fue en todo is to screw up big time or fall for something. Se fue de pollo is also used here.
Toño is the nickname for Antonio
Zafarse means to flee or slip away from someone

Territorio de Zaguates

Duolingo language-learning site appears to be a great start for Spanish

Being a former Spanish language instructor at all levels and holding a Masters degree in Spanish Linguistics, I am in a position to evaluate different Spanish language programs. Duolingo is an excellent tool for those wanting to learn the Spanish language. However, it must supplemented by practice with native speakers, Spanish immersion and above all the desire and motivation to learn the language. Remember, any method is only as good as the effort you put into it. “To learn another language, is to know another world” — Cervantes.

The free, online training site is 5 years old now, and 27 languages are being offered with nearly that many in development. Not all courses are for English speakers, and the English course for foreigners is the most popular.

Of particular interest for expats in Costa Rica is the Spanish for English course, which quickly propels a learner into a basic vocabulary. No one claims that a Duolingo course can make a learner fluent, but the grammatical groundwork is comprehensive.

After 60 or so quick lessons, a learner can construct basic sentences, knows a little about telling time, as well as basic occupations and sizes: small, big, short, tall.

The program originated at Carnegie Mellon University. So, despite being free, the coursework is impressive. Each course is developed by bilingual speakers, and many are academics with vast knowledge of linguistics.

The Spanish for English speakers course has about 79,000 learners now, but many, of course, do not finish the lessons.

That is not the fault of Duolingo. The program sends out daily messages encouraging learners to sign on and complete a lesson. Its motto is that language learning requires daily practice.

The website is available on handheld devices, too. https://en.duolingo.com/

Some may want to use the oral capacities. Those with microphones on computers can use this optional feature.

Parts of this article courtesy of AM Costa Rica