Spanish course Panama Boquete

Spanish Course Panama: Feedback from Boquete

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

Spanish course Panama Boquete schoolI 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.

Spanish course PanamaIf 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!).

boquete staffI’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 Course Panama: Cactus offers Spanish courses in the thriving capital city of Panama City, the Pacific mountains of Boquete and the idyllic Caribbean beach location of Bocas del Toro.

Spanish courses are also available across Spain and Latin America.

Cactus Corporate Case Study: Olswang

Cactus Editor Sarah Watkins talks to Loretta Bonanno, Training Coordinator at Olswang, about their corporate language training programme.

Cactus has been providing language training for international law firm Olswang since 2011. For staff at Olswang, language training is considered a benefit rather than a necessity, so I was keen to find out how the in-company language classes have been received and whether the business considered them to be a good use of training budget.

How language training works at Olswang

Loretta first explained to me the history behind language learning at Olswang. The company has always run ‘language clubs’ – 10-week courses of a minimum 4 students – in order to give staff access to other languages, be it for leisure, travel or personal reasons. During the recession these language courses were stopped but have now been re-instated, with Olswang contributing £50 towards each course and each delegate paying the rest.

When classes were re-instated the uptake was very good and courses are now running in French and Spanish, with one 1.5 hour lesson taking place on one evening each week, over a course of 10 weeks. Usually participants are beginners in the language and go into the course expecting to just learn the basics; as Loretta admits, however, having taken a course herself, she learnt quite a lot more and is now keen to take a refresher course.

The reality of taking a language course is such that some participants have found it difficult to fit in homework between classes – in fact, some are not even able to attend class due to the nature of their work as lawyers. These are natural considerations for any company offering external courses. Feedback has however been good and Loretta tells me that there is always a positive response when she gives her induction to new course participants.

The benefits of offering training & advice for the future

Loretta told me that she would recommend other companies consider offering language training as a staff incentive, as the benefits are wide-ranging. Within Olswang, and from her personal experience attending a course, she has seen the language courses as an ideal opportunity to network within the firm and to meet people you wouldn’t have otherwise, all in a fun environment. Corporate language tuition is also a stepping stone to international development and success, as staff become equipped to effectively communicate with non-English speaking colleagues in global offices.

I was interested to know whether, with all her experience in arranging corporate language training, Loretta had any advice for other companies considering offering the same. Loretta wisely pointed out the importance of communication between all parties involved – the supplier, the client and the teachers – to ensure that everything runs smoothly when it comes to issues such as missed lessons and feedback forms.

The implementation of the courses had been as smooth as hoped with Cactus and, when I asked about Olswang’s future plans, it was great to hear that they were keen to continue and that it was even on the cards to extend their language training programme to other areas. Our chat rounded off nicely with Loretta telling me that it had been a really good experience, and lots of fun too, so we’re certainly looking forward to fulfilling their language learning needs moving forwards.

Many thanks to Loretta for taking the time to talk to us.

Read further corporate case studies on the Cactus corporate website.

Cactus specialises in organising language courses for individuals and groups, having done so since 1999 for clients all over the globe and for diverse needs and budgets. Our expertise in the field of face-to-face tuition is second-to-none. With an extensive network of approved teachers and a strong in-house academic team, we are able to tailor a language course to suit your specific learning needs, anywhere in the world and whenever is convenient to you.

Cactus Corporate Case Study: Lloyds International Spain

Cactus Editor Sarah Watkins talks to Sandy Yunta Mesnier, Recruitment Development Coordinator at Lloyds Bank International Spain, about their corporate language training programme.

Cactus has been providing in-company language training for Lloyds Spain since November 2011. As an English bank located in Spain, tuition has been required in both English and Spanish in 11 locations across Spain, from the bank’s headquarters in Madrid to branches in Marbella, Puerto Banús, Fuengirola, Alicante, Mallorca, Murcia, Pamplona, Valencia and Barcelona. We are now on our fourth set of courses with Lloyds Spain and as such they were the perfect company to tell us how corporate language training has worked for them.

Language training requirements at Lloyds Spain

Sandy starts by explaining to me that language learning has been both a staff benefit and an indispensable requirement for their business. With English customers and English roots, communication between departments and development of the different sectors of the global Lloyds group is dependent on employees being able to speak English. The closed group language lessons have been effective in helping the business grow and succeed.

The minimum language level required for all employees is C1 (advanced level according to the Common European Framework), whilst those in direct contact with clients need to reach C2 (mastery or proficiency). Staff have achieved a solid grammatical base and good written skills, but most importance is placed on reaching fluency in the spoken language and gaining confidence to speak in any situation.

As for what employees think, the feedback has been very positive. Students feel very close to their allocated teachers and motivated by their passion with teaching. Each time they re-initiate a round of training, there are many voluntary requests for language training, over and above those that are required by the business, reflecting the desire as well as the need to continue learning.

The logistics of setting up language training

I asked Sandy whether language training had been a good use of funds for Lloyds Spain and she said that without a doubt, for them it had been.

She was quick to recommend direct contact with Cactus for any language training requirements, citing our efficiency, our ability to find the right teachers and our flexibility in dealing with a company such as theirs undergoing continual change. She also praised the friendliness of all our representatives, highlighting the huge work effort, dedication and professionalism of Ernesto Forner (Head of Corporate Language Training) and his team.

Advice for other companies

I was keen to know whether, with her experience of organising corporate language tuition across such a vast number of locations, Sandy had any advice to offer other companies considering offering the same. She said that Cactus had made it very easy to set up a language training programme across 11 locations, knowing how to adapt to the many different offices, locations and training requirements. For their part, Lloyds has always tried to provide clear and accurate information about each office and the particular staff involved, so collaboration on both sides has facilitated the smooth running of a large scale language training programme.

As for what the future holds, Lloyds Spain now forms part of the Banco Sabadell group, and Sandy tells me that they hope to still receive a solid training programme. Although English language training will not be as crucial as it has been at Lloyds, the banking world will always require a certain level of English language knowledge and, certainly as far as Cactus are concerned, we would happily continue to provide this for more years to come.

Many thanks to Sandy for taking the time to talk to us.

Read further corporate case studies on the Cactus corporate website.

Cactus specialises in organising language courses for individuals and groups, having done so since 1999 for clients all over the globe and for diverse needs and budgets. Our expertise in the field of face-to-face tuition is second-to-none. With an extensive network of approved teachers and a strong in-house academic team, we are able to tailor a language course to suit your specific learning needs, anywhere in the world and whenever is convenient to you.

Cactus Corporate Case Study: TripAdvisor

Cactus talks to TripAdvisor about the benefits and logistics of their in-company language training programme

TripAdvisor began their corporate language training with Cactus in 2012, establishing a programme that has expanded to now include eight languages taught across five offices worldwide.

TripAdvisor fully sponsors the cost of providing language classes for its staff, believing that it is beneficial to them both inside and outside the workplace, as indeed it has proven to be. The uptake has certainly been impressive, with over 50% of its staff enrolling on the first term of classes in the London office alone. As is the case with every client booking closed group language training, each term usually consists of 10 weeks of tuition and businesses can choose general language training or industry-specific language tuition.

TripAdvisor staff: The benefits of language training

Anna explains that the very nature of their global business means that staff are interested in travel and languages, many speaking one or more languages to a decent level – so for these people their in-company language classes are a useful refresher and of particular value when it comes to sales calls or travel to other countries. Others start at beginner level and each term progress up to the next level in their chosen language.

Either way, employees have benefited from their language training on both a work and personal level; morale is good and feedback extremely positive. Staff feel engaged and motivated, and look forward to the next course once one is over. In every way the business is experiencing the benefits of its language learning programme which paves the way to international development and success.

TripAdvisor HR: The logistics of implementing a language course

As for TripAdvisor, offering language training as a staff perk has been an excellent use of training budget and Anna tells me that she would recommend other companies consider doing the same. Setting up the course with Cactus was easy and straight-forward, TripAdvisor putting forward their language learning requirements and soon receiving confirmation that everything was in place. Anna cites Head of Corporate Language Training, Ernesto, and former Corporate Operations Manager, Estelliane, as being particularly helpful, their support most appreciated in the early stages of setting up the classes. Now everything is in place, each term flows easily into the next.

As for where we go from here, TripAdvisor’s language training programme looks set to continue and perhaps even expand into new international territories. With such positive feedback and enthusiasm amongst staff here’s hoping it does, for this is certainly a case where company investment in language training has reaped reward for both employer and employee.

Read further corporate case studies on the Cactus corporate website.

Cactus specialises in organising language courses for individuals and groups, having done so since 1999 for clients all over the globe and for diverse needs and budgets. Our expertise in the field of face-to-face tuition is second-to-none. With an extensive network of approved teachers and a strong in-house academic team, we are able to tailor a language course to suit your specific learning needs, anywhere in the world and whenever is convenient to you.