Outreach Through Language in Costa Rica

Posted: February 28, 2012

Name: Shannon Palmer
School: Clark University, Massachusetts
Program: Sustainable Development Studies

Part of our language and culture class consists of participating in “outreaches” throughout the semester—opportunities to touch the community by playing, teaching, talking—or just listening.

Today, we could choose from painting a school mural, doing crafty projects with the elderly, or what I chose—teaching English to students (although I would call it more of a language exchange!) INA—the language school—is a full time, yearlong program started by the Costa Rican government that provides free English classes to Costa Ricans. Increasingly, American companies are moving to Costa Rica, providing jobs for people with English language proficiency. Learning English isn’t just for convenience, but a way for women and men to support their families.

We all gathered in the park downtown and got acquainted by asking simple questions like “when is your birthday?” and “what foods do you like to cook?” They have only been learning English for a few months, so we were about the same level in our respective language learning!

After getting to know each other a little, we went on a scavenger hunt around town. A girl in my group, Jessica, was initially really shy and nervous about her English skills, but once she realized that I was just as new at Spanish, we were able to laugh and learn without hesitation. So much of learning a language is your confidence to just try speaking, without worrying or feeling pressured.

Their energy and willingness to learn was inspiring and humbling and gracious. I hope they knew how thankful I was for their help too.