Celebrating Language through Costa Rica English Festivals

It’s English Festival season!


Not as exciting as pumpkin spice season (Starbucks, I’ll see you in October) but it’s still an important time here in Costa Rica.

For students in Costa Rica, English is a fundamental skill that can serve as a stepping stone for higher paying jobs, travel, study, and international opportunities. It’s especially important here because Costa Rica’s economy is largely based on tourism with the majority of tourists coming from English speaking countries.

Point is, learn yo English.

So what’s an English Festival? 


English Festivals are annual events held at the elementary (la escuela) and high school (el colegio) levels across the country and composed of 3 different categories of competition–the Spelling Bee, Conversation, and Impromptu Speech. Participating students compete at a local level and winners progress to a regional level and then a national competition, which is held in November.

All competitions are judged by Native English speakers or people who consider themselves fluent speakers in English. Last week, I was a judge at 3 different competitions. I even ran into some other Volunteers along the way!

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Hanging with some PCVs after a Spelling Bee!
Los Ganadores!

These festivals not only emphasize the importance of learning English, but they also give students an opportunity to start overcoming one of the biggest difficulties to learning a new language…embarassment (la vergüenza).

I won’t lie, I got some satisfaction of being on the other side of the table for once in the past 6 months.

Doesn’t feel too good all alone up there does it?


A big thumbs up to the girl who spelled lemur (lemuer? lemeur..) correctly and a supportive pat on the back for the chica who spelled bolder incorrectly (boulder). Fonts not rocks. I thought that one was a cheap shot.

De hecho, learning another language is really hard. You don’t really just “pick it up” or absorb it through osmosis (at least that’s how I thought it would happen). It takes effort, determination, and practice every day. So seeing all these children get on stage in front of a big crowd doing their best to create better opportunities for themselves and their futures was pretty incredible cause it ain’t easy.

“Los Ganadores”

So even though I’m not a Education or Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) volunteer, I’ve been honored to participate in English Festivals here. It really opened my eyes and showed me the importance of the English language here in Costa Rica.

And for the first time ever, I felt a sense of pride and gratitude as a native English speaker.

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We even got to hold bunnies at the colegio! So cute. So random. I know.

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