Saturday 18 September 2021

“Bad English” Makes Costa Rica Less Attractive For Job-Creating Businesses

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QCOSTARICA — Once again Costa Rica has received a low score on the English proficiency index, which could make the country less appealing to foreign companies generating employment.

Photo for illustrative purposes. Source:
Photo for illustrative purposes. Source:

According to the EF English Proficiency Index (EF EPI) index for 2014, the level of English proficient is “low” because Costa Ricans scored 48.5 points out of 100.

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The score places Costa Rica 43rd (of 63); six places below last year’s index.

Of the Latin American countries, Costa Rica is below Argentina (15), Dominican Republic (23), Brazil (38), Mexico (39) and Colombia (42); but ahead of neighbouring Panama (52).

The EF EPI fourth edition (2014) was calculated using test data from 750,000 test takers in 2013 of 61 countries and 2 territories. The test takers were self-selected and no demographic information was collected on them. The tests are used by the company for marketing and placement purposes. In order to be included a country was required to have at least 400 test takers total.

Some recruiters are issuing the country a warning.

“It definitely affects the competitiveness of us at country level, especially on the issue of foreign investment,” said Laura Centeno, Manpower consultant.

Centeno added that the transnationals are no longer coming to Costa Rica in search of “basic” talent, but every day seeking out “specialized” people. Centeno assures the country is faltering in the area of providing specialized people who speak good English.

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Vanessa Gibson, director of the Post Establecimiento de Coalición Costarricense de Iniciativas de Desarrollo (Cinde), say the country needs to strengthen its global competitiveness.

“Knowledge of a second or third language allows more job opportunities in a globalized world, Costa Rica does not escape from it and therefore does recognize the importance to continue promoting that more Costa Ricans master a second language and with the best grade ,” said Gibson.

Karl Schmack, director of the Centro Cultural Costarricense-Norteamericano (Costa Rican-American Cultural Center), says they employ the standardized English test scores such as the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, Teaching, Assessment, abbreviated as CEFR or CEF, a guideline used to describe achievements of learners of foreign languages across Europe and, increasingly, in other countries (for example, Colombia and the Philippines).

“When our students enter for the first time, we conduct a placement test to determine their current level of English, and at the conclusion of the study program apply the international Toeic test as an exit measurement tool. Both tests indicate at what level of the CEFR entering and leaving our students,” he said. The TOEFL, is a standardized test of English language proficiency for non-native English language speakers wishing to enroll in U.S. universities.

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This year, the Centro Cultural enrolled over 4,500 new students admitted with basic knowledge according to the CEFR levels.

“People have their own perception of their English (whether they feel they have more or less English). But it is a subjective and probably inaccurate perception. It is best to use standardized English proficiency test that tells them their skills in using the four skills that comprise the use of a language (speaking, listening, reading and writing) measurements,” added Schmack.

“This same subjectivity exists in many companies who are still in their recruitment processes use the concepts of basic English, intermediate or advanced. But what these levels mean? “He said.

The EF English Proficiency Index has been criticized for its lack of representative sampling in each country. However there are few alternative comparisons available of countries by their English skills, and those that exist are smaller in scale, as is the case with a reported British Council study, or they have other sampling flaws, as is the case with rankings of countries by standardized English test scores such as the TOEFL. The European Commission performed a language survey, SurveyLang, which tests a representative sample of 15-year-old European students on their foreign language skills. The first report and data sets were released for 13 European countries in June 2012.

Source:;; Centro Cultural Costarricense-Norteamericano; Manpower; EF; Wikipedia

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