Panama is a fantastic place to learn Spanish and here, a student from our partner school Habla Ya gives us first-hand feedback from her 6-week Spanish course in Boquete learning Spanish for work
“I’m a native English speaker from the U.S., and my Spanish was at a low intermediate level when I started at Habla Ya. I really enjoyed my time at the location in Boquete, and I learned a lot. I am now quite conversational (of course I still make tons of mistakes!), and I am able to speak Spanish with my clients at work. I consider many of the Habla Ya teachers good friends after my experience at the school, and I am thrilled to have Facebook as a way to keep in touch with them.
Spanish Course Panama – Learning Spanish for Work
I attended Habla Ya for six weeks, and I was extremely motivated since I need to be proficient in Spanish for my job. The professors at Habla Ya took this seriously and helped me focus most on conversation and my comfort/confidence level. Through some strange (probably uncommon) circumstances, I think I had all but maybe two of Boquete’s Habla Ya professors while attending the school. This was a terrific experience for me because each teacher has a different style and some focus more on specific things than others. I especially liked the teachers who corrected me when I made the same mistakes repeatedly, as I learned a lot from this. It can be a tough balance because correcting every single mistake would slow the flow of conversation, but the corrections were always very helpful.
It wasn’t easy to be away from home and income for six weeks, but I feel like I really turned a corner after around week four, and weeks five and six were amazing since I could actually hold a conversation and improve my fluency and confidence level. I know it’s hard to get away for so long, but I highly recommend it if you can. I also recommend you take your learning into your own hands too. Bring supplemental materials and study them. Habla Ya can sell you an excellent language dictionary, but I also highly recommend the book 501 Verbs, the Practice Makes Perfect workbooks (they are available in hard copy or downloadable format), basic children’s novels in Spanish, movies (depending on your level, you can work your way up to watching with Spanish audio and Spanish subtitles), and especially podcasts like Buenos Dias America, Notes in Spanish, and Coffee Break Spanish. I would have been lost at times without these supplemental materials, as the Habla Ya texts don’t provide a lot of explanation. The teachers do, but when you’re back at your homestay trying to study or do your homework, it’s nice to have other helpful materials. And it was a serious luxury for me to be able to study Spanish around the clock, so I tried to immerse myself in Spanish constantly, even back at my homestay after dinner. (Also, a tip: if you need office supplies/notebooks, etc. while in Boquete, I recommend going to La Reina.)
Spanish Course Panama – Homestay Benefits
I highly recommend doing a homestay during your time at Habla Ya. My Spanish would not have advanced nearly so far if I hadn’t been speaking it every day, all day. I stayed with a lovely family in which the parents spoke almost no English, and that meant I had to use my Spanish to communicate and couldn’t slack off once classes were over. It was also wonderful to experience the culture of Boquete and the culture of Panama in a family setting.
Spanish Course Panama – Best Places To Go
Boquete is a lovely town, and I was glad I stayed in one place while I studied. I’ve taken Spanish classes elsewhere at a time in my life when the travel part of the trip was more important to me than the language acquisition part of the trip, but for my time in Boquete I was very focused on my studies. Boquete was a good choice as a place where I could concentrate. You just have to be careful you don’t spend much of your lunch and free time at American-owned establishments where you can speak English – it’s easy to fall into this, but it definitely doesn’t help in the long run.
If you can spend a couple of days in Panama City before heading to Boquete, that is very worthwhile. A trip to see the canal and spending some time in Casco Viejo would be my two top recommendations in Panama City.
If you can get to David while you’re in Boquete, you will see a very different type of city from Boquete, and I enjoyed that too. Taking the bus to David isn’t difficult, and anyone at Habla Ya can tell you how to do it. The excursions are also really fun (you can do these with Habla Ya or a number of other outfitters around town), and Giselle at Habla Ya is amazing at helping with travel booking, rides to and from the bus station, etc. I felt like Habla Ya took really good care of me while I was there. I felt very safe in Boquete, and the people were incredibly friendly. I fell in love with the place and hope to return.
Spanish Course Panama – Teachers & Classes
As I said, I had many teachers at Habla Ya, and I thought they were all very good. I enjoyed both the group and the individual classes. I started with group classes plus one hour of individual instruction each day, and the last week or so I had three hours of individual classes per day with no group classes. I didn’t plan it this way, but it worked out really well.
The group classes are great for learning grammar, learning from questions that other students ask, making friends, etc., and the individual classes allow you to ask all of your own questions, even when they don’t pertain to what you’re studying at the moment, and to talk talk talk talk talk (the most important thing you can do!).
I’m very happy with how my experience at Habla Ya played out, as the last week or so I was literally just conversing with my individual instructors for one or two hours at a time, and this is just what I needed. And it was such fun to get to know them and hear about their lives and families and dreams. I highly recommend each of the teachers I had. Tamara was my individual professor for nearly the entire six weeks, and she helped me focus on legal terminology and the language I would need in my job. We did role plays so I could practice working with clients and get more comfortable in that format, and she helped me develop my conversational skills a lot. She is very good at correcting you without interrupting the conversation, and conversations are so pleasant and useful that the time just flies by. She speaks English well, which was helpful when I wanted to know how to convey a specific idea or sentiment in Spanish and couldn’t really explain it in Spanish.
Yubal was my group class professor, and he did such a great job keeping the group cohesive and making sure everyone had the same opportunities to share and practice their Spanish. He is very inquisitive, so it was fun to talk with him in Spanish about different political issues, problems, cultures, etc. In fact, that was one of my favorite things about the school. The lessons were structured so that we were studying and talking about major issues like capital punishment, drug trafficking, etc. The subject matter was fascinating so studying was interesting and kept your attention.
In a very short time I learned so much from Ericka and Widad. I felt like they took my Spanish up an entire level just in my last week or so. Yaira spent hours with me just chatting, which is the best way I’ve found to improve my Spanish, and she corrected some mistakes that I had been making over and over. I only had Irasema for my first week, but that was a great way to get adjusted to speaking Spanish daily, and she was very kind and patient. I think Arelis was my teacher for only one or two days, but she was an excellent teacher and a great friend and spirit throughout my stay in Boquete. Lorena, Maritza, and Alberto were very helpful and generous with their time, and I always felt like my progress learning Spanish was everyone’s biggest priority. They all speak Spanish and English, but no one ever tried to switch to English when I was taking forever to say a simple sentence in Spanish.
I definitely recommend Habla Ya, and I’m very grateful to the school and its amazing staff and professors.”
Thank you to Tiffany from Denver, Colorado, for contributing her feedback, and to Habla Ya for providing images.
Spanish courses are also available across Spain and Latin America.