Learning Spanish takes a lot of work. Even after taking classes at the university, until you have to use it every day as part of your life it is hard to keep up. Even though I can read well, speaking is a whole different animal. Trying to remember all the verbs and their conjugations can drive a person crazy. Reading is easier since the words and verbs are written and you can make sense of them. But when you are in the process of trying to communicate on an intelligent level it is more difficult. It is good that most Costa Ricans are very helpful when it comes to speaking, in most cases they help out with English.
My IPod is just dedicated to Spanish and has about 10 GB of recorded lessons. I try to listen to it every day so as not to lose the ear; it’s all about hearing and listening to the words. The more you hear the more you remember. I guess that is harder for us old folks who are in their waning years of learning new things. I have always been able to get by using my “spainuguese”. That’s a combination of Spanish and Brasilian Portuguese. I do hope to improve once we move down and have reasons to use it other than repeating phases from the IPod lessons. I think learning the language is really important and there is a need to be able to communicate with your neighbors, to not learn would be a disservice.
Without knowing the language how would you ever know how people feel about different things or learn the culture? The Costa Rican culture is very unique and well worth understanding. I know it will take time, but the payoff for learning will be large.