Skip to main content

What Language Do They Speak in Costa Rica?

What Language Do They Speak in Costa Rica

Costa Rica, a captivating country nestled between Nicaragua and Panama, boasts a rich linguistic heritage reflecting its indigenous roots and colonial history. The official language is Spanish, which is spoken by the vast majority of the population. However, there’s a linguistic tapestry beyond Spanish that includes indigenous languages, English, and other foreign languages.

Key Takeaways
Official LanguageSpanish
Indigenous LanguagesBribri, Cabécar, Maleku, Teribe, Boruca
Other Languages SpokenEnglish, Patois, Mandarin, and others
Language PolicyThe Costa Rican government recognizes Spanish as the official language and works to preserve indigenous languages

The Dominance of Spanish

Spanish, inherited from the colonial era when Costa Rica was under Spanish rule from 1524 to 1821, is the primary medium of communication in this Central American jewel. It’s used in government, media, education, and daily life. The version of Spanish spoken here has its unique characteristics, distinguished by a soft, lilting accent and the use of “usted” instead of “tú” for informal communication.

Influence of Spanish on Culture and Society

EducationSpanish is the medium of instruction in schools and universities, making it a crucial part of the educational system.
MediaNewspapers, radio, and television broadcasts are predominantly in Spanish, reflecting and reinforcing the linguistic landscape.
GovernmentOfficial documents, legal systems, and political discourse are conducted in Spanish.

Indigenous Languages: A Glimpse into the Past

Costa Rica is home to a handful of indigenous languages that provide a window into the country’s rich pre-colonial past. These languages include Bribri, Cabécar, Maleku, Teribe, and Boruca. Although they are spoken by a small fraction of the population, efforts are underway to preserve and revitalize these linguistic treasures.

Government Initiatives to Preserve Indigenous Languages

  • Documentation of indigenous languages
  • Inclusion of indigenous languages in the educational system
  • Promotion of bilingual education in indigenous communities

Foreign Languages: Bridging Cultures

Besides Spanish and indigenous languages, other languages find their voice in Costa Rica due to immigration, globalization, and the country’s thriving tourism industry. English, in particular, is widely spoken especially in tourist areas and among the educated populace. Other foreign languages spoken include Patois, Mandarin, French, and Italian, reflecting the multicultural dimension of Costa Rican society.

Language Proficiency and Economic Opportunities

LanguageEconomic Impact
EnglishEnglish proficiency opens doors to better job opportunities especially in the tourism and international business sectors.
MandarinWith China’s growing economic influence, Mandarin speakers have an advantage in the business realm.


Costa Rica’s linguistic landscape is a mirror to its historical and cultural journey. From the dominance of Spanish to the resilient indigenous languages and the blend of foreign languages, Costa Rica offers a linguistic mosaic that contributes to its vibrant cultural identity.