Howler Magazine - - Lifestyle -

The best way to learn a lan­guage is to go out there and try, stum­ble, brush off and try again. Lan­guage is in the do­ing of each mo­ment, every chance you get. It starts with the sim­plest of mo­ments, at the check­out or at a restau­rant. Look your server in the eyes, smile and say, “Hola,” “Bue­nas” or “Buenos días,” all of which ex­press the same sen­ti­ment. Be bold and try “¿Cómo está?” but try not to panic when the per­son you are greet­ing smiles and replies, “Todo bien,” “Gra­cias” or

“Pura vida,” which will likely hap­pen 99 per­cent of the time. Do this when­ever you go out and you'll find peo­ple are friend­lier and more pa­tient with you than if they were only ad­dressed in English.

Con­stantly try to change up your phrases, so your in­ter­ac­tions don't be­come robotic and ar­ti­fi­cial. “Pura vida” is your go-to phrase; not since “Shalom” has there been such a well-rounded ex­pres­sion. Pura vida ex­presses so much about the Costa

Ri­can peo­ple, cul­ture and way of life. Al­though it lit­er­ally means “pure life,” pura vida is a salu­ta­tion when you are ar­riv­ing, just pass­ing or leav­ing. It can also be a sug­ges­tion or a prover­bial chill pill — a re­minder that ‘all around, life is pop­ping and hap­pen­ing and your petty worry is no match for its great­ness, so re­lax and look around' — all rolled in those two words. Once pura vida en­ters your realm, you too can sit for 30 min­utes at the bank and en­joy the mo­ment … play with your smart­phone and look up phrases to use on the un­sus­pect­ing teller. Pura vida can be used lib­er­ally and of­ten; when all words fail, they will get you a smile every time.

How you lis­ten when learn­ing Span­ish is also in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant. You are not lis­ten­ing for com­plete com­pre­hen­sion, or not even 50 per­cent com­pre­hen­sion. Your goal is to un­der­stand more and more of what you are hear­ing each time.

Don't just fo­cus on the words, but look at the big­ger pic­ture. Fac­tor in the tone, man­ner­isms, ex­pres­sions and any other cue that al­lows you to un­der­stand what some­one is say­ing. Just take a deep breath and think, “Pura vida, any­where I go peo­ple will be late for any ap­point­ment I make, so I am not in a hurry either!”

This, my north­ern friend, is your new mantra. The im­por­tant thing is be present, in the mo­ment, us­ing all your senses to un­der­stand what­ever pos­si­bly mun­dane con­cept is be­ing ex­pressed. Take wild guesses and gi­ant leaps of faith. What's the worst that can hap­pen? You laugh at your­self! In many cases, you will make a new friend who will en­gage with you each time you see each other again. The two of you will share an in­side joke, which looks su­per cool when your friends come to visit.

As em­pha­sized pre­vi­ously to Howler read­ers, the hu­man brain is amaz­ing. The more you en­gage, the more it cre­ates con­nec­tions and the more you learn with in­creas­ing speed. With lan­guage learn­ing be­ing a whole-brain ac­tiv­ity, there is noth­ing bet­ter … no for­mula sup­ple­ment or pill more ef­fec­tive at keep­ing your brain healthy. If you think that daily walk on the beach is good for you, just add a stop here and there to en­gage in Span­ish for a su­per brain boost­ing work­out. To grow your vo­cab­u­lary, read one of the lo­cal bilin­gual news­pa­pers or pick up a book at Jaime Peli­gro's. Watch the news in Span­ish, or a soap opera, movie or show you have al­ready seen in English, or lis­ten and sing along to Span­ish tunes. Join a class or get a tu­tor if you want to ad­vance your level of un­der­stand­ing.

But noth­ing beats get­ting out there and en­gag­ing.

Not since “Shalom” has there been such a well-rounded ex­pres­sion.

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