Learning Spanish

Life is so much easier and more fun if you can communicate! Those of you who have followed my blog for a while know how I feel about learning the local language. You don’t have to speak perfectly or even close to it, but if you can make yourself understood and understand most of what is said to you, it’s a wonderful thing. There are people who speak English in various businesses around town but you can’t count on that when you need someone, so it’s much easier to get things done when you know some Spanish. And, best of all, you can be friends with the locals. My Panamanian friends are like sunshine in my life.

I took classes on line with Habla Ya for six months before I arrived and this helped me enormously. I thank the school and my teacher Yaira every day for my ability to communicate. Their teachers are very kind and patient, but also very professional and capable. They are running a special for expats in Panama right now, so check THIS LINK for details.  Even if you aren’t in Panama or close to one of their schools (Boquete, Bocas del Toro, and Panama City) you can take classes on line. This is what I did. I had class for an hour a day plus homework. That’s enough to pound a fair amount of Spanish into even my thick head.

Then, you need to find friends who don’t speak English. You are forced to use your Spanish, and listening helps so much with understanding. Local people can tell you about life here, the culture, food, where to shop, life stories, and explanations of things that are confusing. You can also hand them the phone on those days when your Spanish has just flown out of your head and a phone conversation is an exercise in frustration.

So, this is my rant for the day. Go learn the language in whatever way works for you. If you are like me though, and you know your teacher will be waiting to check your homework, you are much more likely to study every day.

P.S. I generally don’t promote businesses on my blog, but these folks made a big difference in my life here and have more than earned my support.

About Kris Cunningham

We live in David, Chiriqui Provence, Republic of Panama! This blog is about some of our experiences in our new country.
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10 Responses to Learning Spanish

  1. oldsalt1942 says:

    Te escucho…
    I agree 100%. You with Cedo and myself as the only person in mi bario, we HAVE to speak Spanish. I tell newcomers “Forget becoming FLUENT in Spanish. It’s NOT going to happen unless all you do with your time is study. Aim at becoming PROFICIENT enough so that you can deal with life in your adopted home in THEIR language, and they don’t care if you’re perfect or not.

    Another thing I highly recommend is buy a pocket-sized Spanish/English dictionary with PLASTIC covers, and DON’T LEAVE HOME WITHOUT IT.


    • Good point about the dictionary. I carried mine with me for two years. I think a book is better than an app on your phone or tablet. Everyone can deal with dictionary and I’ve had fun with people, both of us looking for the word I need.


  2. I really agree, Kris, it is respectful to learn the language, I believe. Plus you will be happier and more adjusted as you learn the culture and try to be a part of it.


  3. Kookie says:

    Glad to hear that you are learning Spanish. Also that you are enjoying your retirement over there in chiriqui. I understand how you’re feeling I was stationed in Japan for 4 years and it was a great feeling when I noticed I was able to communicate with the neighbors. Well enjoy! Panama I was born there and lived in David for 16 years but as a “Zonian” my family relocated to NYC after my father retired from the Navy. I miss it a lot and visit every year. Bueno goza tu estadía en Chiriqui.


    • NYC is another fantastic place, so much going on there. I hope you enjoyed it, and also your time in Japan. That must have been a really interesting experience. How nice you can visit Chiriqui too and maybe one day you can move back here. It’s such a great place to be.
      Thanks for stopping by my blog and taking the time to comment 🙂


  4. Robert & Helen. says:

    It is all very true. Reading every day La Estrella and La Prensa online helps a lot. Also the Spanish international news of El Pais.


    • Most of my Spanish is talking with people. I have no interest in following the news and was glad to leave that behind me. I try to use my translate apps as little as possible though when doing various things on line and that has helped.


  5. Kevin Robinson says:

    Kris, I am currently still in the U.S. but just last week signed up for a Spanish course at the local college entitled “Basic conversational Spanish”. When the time comes for our research visit to Panama, I don’t want to be lost without understanding the local language. I recommend learning Spanish to everyone I talk to about it.


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