General Information & Frequently Asked Questions
The school´s address is:
Barrio Dent, from Autos Hyundai, 300 meters North and 50 meters West.
Another address is:
Barrio Dent, from the Mall San Pedro´s north entrance (entrance to the mall´s parking lot) 200 meters West.
We are located in a very nice up-scale residential/commercial neighborhood on the East side of San José. CRLA is just 20 minutes walking distance from downtown San José, close to the well-known San Pedro Mall and to a variety of restaurants, banks, shops, nightclubs, cinemas, theaters and museums.
Free wireless internet access is available at CRLA for all students.
We also have several computers connected to the Internet at all times and are available to students free of charge.
Students can receive mail here at the school since our address is more reliable than the host family’s. Our mailing/postal address is:
c/o COSTA RICAN LANGUAGE ACADEMY
P.O. BOX 1966-2050
SAN JOSE, COSTA RICA,
Each homestay family has a telephone that students may use, but we prefer students use the school’s telephones instead of the family’s whenever possible. This is because telephone service is expensive for the families here and there is no set monthly cost; every minute of use is charged. At the school, local calls are free and for long distance calls students can call collect or use a telephone card. Students may also buy calling cards for international calls at the school. Students may also receive calls from friends and family at the school.
We also recommend using services such as Skype, WhatsApp or similar.
You may ask your cell phone service providers if their phones and plans work in Costa Rica and how much it will cost, but it is often difficult to obtain accurate information. Usually, a less expensive and easier option is to buy a phone in Costa Rica or buy a SIM card to convert your mobile device to a Costa Rican phone number.
In order to use your cell phone in Costa Rica, you need to make sure that you bring an UNLOCKED cell phone (if you are on a plan with your local telephone company, your cell phone is probably locked). The unlocked cell phone must be a quad-band GSM or 3G handset or at least have an 850 or 1800 mHz band. Then when you are in Costa Rica you can buy a SIM card (for example at the ICE telecommunications company booth in the baggage section of the San José airport and many other locations all around the country). You may pay $4 for a cell phone number and buy an inexpensive 30-day SIM card that will be inserted in your phone and will give you 60 minutes of calling time.
A very inexpensive solution is to download Skype (www.skype.com) and use it on your wireless device to call other Skype users for free anywhere in the world, or to call regular phone numbers for a very low fee.
Another option if you have a smart phone is to use WhatsApp, Viber or similar apps.
One option that does not require you to have a phone or any device is to buy a Costa Rican pre-paid calling card. You can use these cards with any pay phone or local landline.
GYM NEAR TO SCHOOL
Fitness Centre Gym in San Pedro Mall, located two blocks away from CRLA, offers our students a special price of approx. $42/month. Students can use the gym facilities whenever they want from 6:00 am to 9:00 pm (Monday to Friday), Saturdays 9:00am to 7:00 pm and Sundays 9:00 am to 3:00 pm.
Students who enroll in CRLA’s intensive 4 week Spanish & Home stay programs have the option of a 1 month free gym membership.
9:00 am until 12:00 noon – Spanish classes
12:00 -1:00 pm – Lunch break
Afternoon Spanish classes are:
1:00 – 2:00 pm (for students receiving 4hrs/day), or
1:00-3:00 pm (for students receiving 5hrs/day), or
1:00-4:00 pm (for students receiving 6hrs/day).
After their Spanish classes students participate in afternoon cultural activities:
– Latin dance classes (from 3:00 – 4:00 and 4:00 – 5:00pm)
– Cooking classes (Wednesdays 4:00-5:00pm)
– Additional Conversation sessions (Tuesdays & Thursdays 4:00- 5:00pm)
All classes, including cultural classes, are conducted completely in Spanish. We believe this is the ideal setting to improve conversation skills and fluency. Therefore, we have designed our classes to ensure maximum student participation. Our Homestay program, afternoon cultural activities and the school’s friendly atmosphere also provide additional opportunities for conversation.
In addition to activities and classes inside the school, students also participate in their free time in activities outside the Academy such as:
– visits to museums and markets located near the Academy
– night outings to local restaurants, bars, dance clubs, and theaters
– weekend excursions to beaches, rain forests, volcanoes and National Parks
On the first day of class you should plan to arrive about 8:00AM (unless otherwise indicated). Other students from around the world will also be starting on the same day. Since students will be of different language levels, all students will be asked to take an oral language placement test (a written test will be sent to you before arrival, which you must fill out and return). A teacher will evaluate your language skills and then our coordinator will place you in the correct class. Once this has been completed, you will be directed to the appropriate classroom where your first class begins at 9AM.
At 4PM, you will attend a welcome orientation meeting at the school where you will receive additional information, including a school ID card (with home stay and school phone numbers and addresses, emergency phone numbers- 24 hour CRLA staff available), practical information about living in Costa Rica (changing money, transportation, map and location of important places), safety tips, rules and recommendations for daily living with a host family, information about the school and our services (schedule for afternoon cultural activities, free Internet access, telephone cards, front desk services, etc.) review of activities and schedules included in the program and a questions & answers session.
During his/her stay, the staff at the reception desk can give the students maps, bus schedules, banking information, tourist information and will help with any questions the students may have. Our school is small and we try to have a very open and warm atmosphere. We like to have close contact with each student and we do our best to make them feel welcome and at home.
After you first day, classes will start at the same time each day, at 9AM.
The host family will accompany the student to the school and show the student how to get to the school (usually a short 15-20 minute bus ride).
Students take the bus about 1 or two blocks away from their homestay and are dropped off at a bus stop 1 or 2 blocks away from the school). **
Host families will also return to the Academy in the afternoon and take the student back home after classes on the first day and until it is necessary and the student knows his/her way around.
** Public buses are very easy to use, very cheap (about US $0.50) and they run every 10-20 minutes from 5:30 am until 11:00 pm. If students go out at night we recommend that they take a taxi back home (taxis cost approx. US $4-$10).
HOW WE DETERMINE EACH STUDENT’S SPANISH LEVEL
Each new student, on his/her first day, will meet with one of our Spanish teachers for an oral evaluation. This, along with the student’s background in Spanish (previous Spanish lessons received, knowledge of other languages, visits to Spanish-speaking countries, etc.) and the written test sent by email, helps us determine the student’s level and decide what class would be best for the student. Then, after the first lesson we confirm with the student’s teacher that the level assigned was appropriate. If not, the Spanish Coordinator will make the necessary changes.
Since new students arrive each week and everyone learns at a different pace, we monitor students’ progress constantly and we encourage students to tell us how they feel about their lessons so we can make changes in the groups if necessary.
CLASSES FOR ABSOLUTE BEGINNERS
Many of the students who come to our school have never had a Spanish class before, so we do have classes for absolute beginners. Most families do only speak Spanish; however, this is really no problem for beginner students. The families are used to having students who don’t speak Spanish, and are very patient in trying to communicate using basic words and sign language. The staff from the school can also serve as translators when needed. They speak English and some of our teachers speak German.
For very advanced students, we offer upper-level classes such as literature (Latin American or children’s literature), conversation and advanced grammar. We also offer other specialized classes, such as Business Spanish (finance, medical or legal terms) and classes for Spanish teachers.
All our instructors have university degrees in Spanish Education, Philology, or Linguistics at the University of Costa Rica or the National University. Others come from similar fields, such as Journalism. Most of them have worked at our school for 5 years or more and all have ample experience teaching Spanish as a second language. They are all very professional and friendly.
ACCOMMODATIONS IN HOST FAMILY
Host families provide students with halfboard (breakfast & dinner) and laundry service. Each student will have his/her private room.
While a room with a family is not always as luxurious and comfortable as a hotel room, it is much less expensive and gives students the opportunity to practice their Spanish and learn about our culture.
HOST FAMILY SELECTION
How are families selected for homestays? The homestay families are carefully selected for their hospitality and for safe and clean housing. We place students with many different types of families (with or without children, married couples, single parents, young or older, etc.) We assign homestay families according to the preferences the students select in their registration form. We personally visit and meet with each family, and we evaluate them on a regular basis by asking each student to fill out a questionnaire about the family and their experiences at the home.
As you can see in our price lists, some of our intensive 4 week programs include 1 or 2 excursions. In addition, each week we help students with their travel plans for the weekends. We offer students information about bus schedules, hotels and places to visit. We can also buy their bus and plane tickets, make tour and hotel reservations and give them excellent student discounts on the most popular excursions.
Costa Rica’s climate is very different from Europe and much of North America because we do not have 4 seasons. Our weather is spring-like year-round and we only have 2 seasons: the rainy, or green season (which we call “invierno” or winter) and the dry season (which we call “verano” or summer).
In the Central Valley, where San José is located, the rainy season lasts from May to November and the dry season from December through April.
Even during the rainy season, most mornings are bright, sunny and hot. It often rains in the afternoon for about 1 or 2 hours (sometimes very strong rain, like a tropical storm) and then it will stop. The rest of the afternoon and evening will be comfortable and cool.
Most of the rainy season will be like this, with very predictable rain showers each afternoon. In October and November it rains more frequently, but in December the rain stops and the weather is dry and fresh with cool winds from the North.
Many people visit during the rainy season and take advantage of “green season discounts” in hotels and tours. The Pacific coast is usually the part of the country where it rains less and on the Atlantic coast rain can fall at any time of the year.
The temperatures in the country do not vary much each month; they vary according to the altitude.
The average temperature in San José is 75¨F (24¨C) In the mountains or highlands, the temperature drops about 10-15 degrees. In the coasts, the temperatures are higher: 80F to 90F (about 26C to 32C).
Even during the rainy season the temperatures are not very low, so all students should need is a sweater and an umbrella.
We suggest that students bring light clothes: cotton pants, shorts, t-shirts, jeans, etc. and a jacket or sweater for the cool evenings or for visiting mountains or volcanoes. When traveling to the coasts they will need much lighter clothes because it can get very hot: a bathing suit, shorts, light & short dresses, sandals, etc. If possible bring some quick-dry / athletic performance material clothing.
Clothing for school is informal; students may wear jeans, shorts, t-shirts, etc. They also might want to bring something a little bit dressier for going out at night.
Women may wear skirts,long and short, regular shorts and sleeveless shirts. Very short skirts and shorts are perfect for the beach but not for the city where they might get unwanted attention from men on the street.
Usually, the safest and most economical way to make payments in San José is with a credit card (Visa or Master Card) or with traveler’s checks. Credit cards are accepted in almost all stores and restaurants. Traveler checks are not accepted everywhere, but students may change them for cash at any bank.
Also, many of our students use an ATM card to get cash (there are some ATM machines in San José but not many outside the city). In case of an emergency, money can be wired to a student through FedEx, Money Gram, Western Union or a similar system.
The highest season for the school is from mid-May through August, when we occasionally have groups coming as well as college students who are on their vacations.
The most popular Costa Rican public holidays are:
|January 1||New Year|
|April 11||Juan Santamaría´s Day(National Hero)|
|May 1||Labor Day|
|Thursday & Friday||Easter / Holy Week|
|July 25||Guanacaste Annexation Day|
|August 2||Virgin of los Angeles Day(Feast of Patroness of Costa Rica)|
|August 15||Mother’s Day|
|September 15||Independence Day|
|October 12||Columbus Day|
At CRLA we try to have very few holidays because we have students arriving year-round every week. We try to schedule holidays and make long weekends so students can travel during this time. If students wish, they can make up any lost lessons on other days for example, for holidays or if the student is sick and misses school for a few days.
If the student does not wish to make up classes, we can subtract the hours of class lost from his/her payment in advance. We always offer the students make-up classes and changes of schedule to accommodate any missed lessons; however, no refunds are given to students for missed classes.
|December 2015||25th, 28th, 29th, 30th, 31st||Christmas Vacations|
|January 2016||1st||New Year|
|March 2016||24th, 25th||Holy Week (Semana Santa)|
|December 2016||26th, 27th, 28th, 29th, 30th,||Christmas Vacations|
|January 2017||1st||New Year|
Even when the school is closed for holidays and there are no Spanish classes, the airport transportation and Homestay service are still available to students during those dates.
LEARN SPANISH & LEAVE A POSITIVE FOOTPRINT
CRLA students have the opportunity of contributing to make a tangible difference in our world and to leave something positive for future generations.