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Teaching English in Costa Rica: What to Expect and How to Prepare

Teachers hiking in Costa Rica
Teachers hiking in Costa Rica. Photo courtesy of WorldTeach.

Compared with many other countries in Central America Costa Rica offers many opportunities to natives and foreigners alike. One of the things that Costa Ricans (Ticos) have most in common is their desire to learn the English Language.

You can find any number of institutions not only in the capital San Jose but also in other regions of the country dedicated to this cause. Some even offer their teachers an exchange program: you teach English while the institute reciprocates and teaches you Spanish. You can also be a private tutor and make a bit more money. The prices per class vary somewhat. It depends upon your experience and ultimately on the income of the students themselves. If you do decide to look for a teaching position there are few things that you should know.

The first thing is a permit. Some institutions require one; others do not. And if you do decide to stay you will want to get your papers in motion. A good lawyer can help you with this, or you can deal with it yourself. All you have to do is go to Immigration and request the information for a temporary permit. This includes a copy and authentication of your college diploma (translated into Spanish and certified), a letter from the company indicating why they want to hire you over Costa Ricans, pictures, a copy of your passport, your criminal record, etc. Since the permit takes a while, generally Immigration doesn’t say anything as long as you are working toward a legal status. (By the way, if you can get an authentication of your diploma done by the Costa Rican embassy in your country before you arrive you will save yourself a lot of headache.)

After taking care of your legal standing, finding a job is not difficult. Networking with other foreigners is also an excellent way to find opportunities. Reviewing ads on the supermarket bulletin board is yet another way.

After finding a position, remember that this is a laid back, take-it-easy, “Pura Vida” community. These are some of the things that I have found most useful in my work. Perhaps they can help you as well. Keep them guessing as to exactly what you will do in each class!

  • Do be dynamic and creative. Students here learn so much better when the teacher strives to make the lessons as interactive as possible.

  • Do be firm but flexible. Let them know that you want them to learn but allow for tiredness from work, university, running up and down on the buses, etc.

  • Do show personal interest. The students respond so much better when you take a few moments to ask them about their families and their work. Remember that this is a Latin community and families are very important.

  • Do be patient. Like any of us, Costa Rican students learn at different paces.

  • Do not allow them to laugh at one another. Ticos hate making mistakes in public; if anyone laughs at them even once they will never practice again for fear of humiliation.

  • Do not allow them to talk to you in Spanish and have you explain to them in English. Have them work at it and get it out somehow. That will give them the impetus they need to try again later on.

  • Do not stop commending them for all of their hard work.

For More Info

Visit Transitions Aboad's section for teachers for more resources on teaching in Costa Rica often found with other Central American job postings.

For more resources on living in Costa Rica please visit Transitions Abroad's Expatriate Resources for Costa Rica section.

Related Topics
Teaching English in Costa Rica: Articles and Job Resources
Living in Costa Rica: Resources
Related Articles
Teaching English in Costa Rica

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