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 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

To be fed up with

  • Aserriceño/a – a person who lives in the town of Aserrí
  • Botaratas – someone who wastes money or spends carelessly
  • Candidatearse – to be a candidate for an office
  • Chanear – to shine, spruce up or clean
  • Chayotera – a person’s signature
  • Chepear –to snoop or be nosey
  • Cruzarle el caballo – to be an obstacle or to stop someone from doing something
  • Goico – short for the area of Goicoechea
  • Guindo – a ravene or gully
  • Hacerle la cruz a – to avoid something
  • Improvisados – amateur bull fighters
  • Más torcido que el rabo de chancho – to be crooked literally and figuratively
  • Motorizado/a – a person who delivers food or goods by motorcycle
  • ¡Qué jeta! – Shut up!
  • Tamalear – to eat tamales
  • Tamarindear – to drink liquor
  • Tenerle a uno hasta el copete – to bed fed up or sick of something
foto: eyleen vargas

To Make Waves

Alborotar el panal is to make waves or cause an uproar
Bicha is a motorcycle
Burro is a person who is paid to transport drugs
Burros are type of shoe that has a thick sole with treads or hiking.
Cantar a todo galillo is to sign at the top of one’s lungs.
Fumigar literally means to fumigate but also means to kill somebody.
Hacer buena yunta is to make a good couple or make a good team with someone you work with.
Majo is short for the name María José
Mover el esqueleto is to dance. Bailar is the correct way of saying to dance.
Pedir cacao is to ask for forgiveness
Se fue en todo is to screw up
Se le cayó el barniz is when someone’s image gets tarnished.
Soltar el huevo is to spend money or to pay someone money that you owe them. Soltar el perro is a synonym.
Sudar tacacos is to worry.
Tafies is slang for fiesta (party)

To Be All Nerves

  • A todo gas is to do something at full speed
  • Andar de mano sudada is to have a boyfriend or girlfriend
  • Cerchas – beams in the ceiling of a house
  • Cleta – bicycle. Bicicleta is the correct word for bicycle
  • Empuchado/a is a diligent or hard working person
  • Jamonear is to hit someone
  • Jupón/a is a stubborn person
  • lo or la fueron is to have fired someone from a job
  • La peli is a movie or flick
  • Más peligroso que un rifle chocho is to be very dangerous
  • Merula is slang for a woman’s makeup
  • Parecer un bistec de 5 pesos, solo nervios is to be nervous or all nerves
  • Pichuleo is an odd job; Salvar la tanda is to save the day
  • Se fue de pollo or se fue en todo is to screw up or be deceived
  • Tirarse a la pista means not to hesitate or not think about something twice