The Pura Vida Lifestyle

Pura Vida! (pronounced; poo-rah-vee-dah) means literally:  Pure Life.  Over time this phrase has come to mean something more and is used often by "Ticos" (nickname for Costa Ricans).  Here are a few examples (in English) of how this phrase is used:

Good morning.  How are you? Reply:  Pura Vida (fine, good, great, content)

Hows the job coming along? Reply:  Pura Vida (good, fine, no problem)

Can you please do this for me? Reply:  Pura Vida (sure, OK)

The phrase "Pura Vida" has also come to signify the way of life of the typical Costa Rican.  A Pura Vida lifestyle is worry-free.  Ticos are less concerned about a life of luxury than they are about a life of few concerns.  They prefer to have a relaxed outlook on life and enjoy it as much as they can.

Here are a few common words and phrases used in Costa Rica.  Beside each word or phrase is an example of how it should be pronounced.

Basic Spanish Vocabulary
Spanish English Pronunciation Guide
Buenos dias good morning bwen-noss-dee-us
Buenas tardes good afternoon bwen-us-tard-es
Buenas noches good evening bwen-us-no-chess
Como le va? Hows it going? co-mo-lay-vah
Bien gracias Good, thank you bee-en grah-see-ahs
Gracias Thank you grah-see-ahs
Donde está... Where is don-day-es-tah
...el baño The bathroom ell-ban-yo
...el aeropuerto The airport ell-ay-row-pwair-toe
...el restaurante The restaurant ell-res-tow-ron-tay
How much does it cost? Cuanto cuesta? kwan-toe-quest-ah
Please Por favor pour-fav-oar
Speak more slowly Habla mas despacio ah-blah-mas-des-pah-see-oh
Can you help me? Puede ayudarme? pweh-de-ah-you-dar-meh
Please use the meter Por favor, utilize la maría pour-fav-oar-oo-tea-lisa-la maria
Check please! La cuenta por favor lah-kwenta-pour-fav-oar
Chicken Pollo Poi-yo
Beef Carne de res car-neh-de-ress
Fish Pescado pess-cod-oh
Salad Ensalada en-sal-ah-dah
Vegetables Vegetales ve-he-tall-ess
French fries Papas fritas pa-pas-free-tahs
To drink? Para tomar? par-ah-toe-mar
Dessert Postre po-stray
Where can I park? Donde puedo parquear? don-day-pweh-doe-park-eh-are

One nice thing about Spanish is it's consistency.  It doesn't have as many of the strange pronunciations we find in English (such as "enough" and "though" - how does a foreigner know when the "gh" is silent?).  In Spanish the pronunciation of each letter or combination of letters is almost always the same.  When you memorize how the letters of the alphabet are pronounced you will quickly be able to read and pronounce written Spanish.  This will help you build your vocabulary.  Obviously, visiting a Spanish speaking country (especially one like Costa Rica where they speak beautiful Spanish) you will be able to immerse yourself in Spanish and pick up a lot of words and phrases during your visit.  Ticos are very friendly and love to help people learn the language.  The only problem you will have is Ticos all want to learn English and many will prefer to practice their English with you rather than speak Spanish.

The following table gives a few examples of how letters should be pronounced:

Spanish Letter Pronunciation Guide
best English
example English words with the sound
a ah alone
e eh edward
i ee machine
o oh occasion
u ew flute
ai, ay eye fly
ch ch chin
cu koo recoup
ge, gi heh, he hefty, heap
gui gee geek
h - - always silent
j h heavy
LL ya tortilla (tort-tee-ya) or yahoo
ñ ny or ni canyon or onion
que keh kelly
qui kee keel

Recommendations and Helpful Links

Costa Rica Spanish - We highly recommend the Wayra Language Institute in Tamarindo. It is operated by highly professional staff and their immersion courses are exceptional.