Before we moved to Costa Rica from Cloverdale, British Columbia, Canada, we took a six week basic Spanish course. I don't think it did much good.
We've been in Costa Rica for almost four years and just about every Spanish word we know now has been acquired from interacting with Ticos, especially our taxi drivers.
We have advanced to the level of being able to call for a taxi, order food delivery, order meat at the butcher shop and buy fruit and vegetables at the ferias (farmers' markets), order our meals in restaurants. Banking has become much easier, although I still sweat when my teller says, "Deanna ....." and I wonder where I have gone wrong.
When I shop for groceries, it is automatic for me to look for natilla and not sour cream, pan not bread, lactocrema not butter, atun not tuna and so on. My grocery lists are written almost all in Spanish. I can ask for the fruit and vegetables I want to buy from the street vendor and what the price is and understand what their reply is - mostly!
But yesterday, I learned something new from one of our taxi drivers, Rodrigo Espinoza Solano, who is a stickler for correct pronounciation and grammar. When I went to pay him in colones, I asked for "cincocientos" in change back. Wrong!! Although everyone else understands what we want.
In Spanish, when you are counting in the hundreds, it is like this: 200 = doscientos; 300 = trescientos; 400 = cuatrocientos; 500 .... different!!!
500 suddenly becomes quinientos. I asked why, "Qué?", but didn't get or didn't understand the answer. Rodrigo gives me a Spanish lesson every time I ride in his taxi and then he tests me the next time I ride with him.
Not only that, he plays wonderful Spanish music on his car radio.