Learn Spanish!

Many people read this blog because they are interesting in living in Panama, or they are already here. For me, the biggest challenge of relocating was the language. I’m not good at languages and teaching me is like pounding information into a stone head, and with holes because what goes in is likely to come right back out again.


It’s not too late to make resolutions for 2017. If learning Spanish is one of them, here you go. Yaira is an experienced teacher, and she has the patience of a saint (I’m not only slow to learn, I get frustrated and whine.) You can have your own private teacher thanks to Skype, and she is flexible about times, number of classes, goals, and anything else you need.

Here is Her Website. http://www.yairatutoria.com/

Teaching privately has allowed Yaira to go to university to further her career as a teacher, and to also spend more time with her young son. I thank her every day for my ability to communicate and I’m happy to recommend her to you all.



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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24 Responses to Learn Spanish!

  1. Robert & Helen says:

    As I am Dutch (terrible difficult language) we had to learn at high school, English, German and French. The basis is that one knows well the grammer of your native language. In 1975 I had to work in Spain. The company sent me to a top language school during 3 weeks, individual classes 5 hours a day. It worked out very well. Anyway Kris it is hard work. Most Panamanians speak Spanish like Americans speak English in a small town in Texas.


    • 5 hours a day? My head would explode!
      I know, many Panamanians mumble, cut off ends of words, etc. and the accent is different from other countries. I signed up with Yaira because she is Panamanian, born and raised in Chiriqui.


    • Roger says:

      A few years ago a friend from the US asked me where the people spoke the best Spanish (castellano) language, what country spoke the best and correct Spanish. My answer was: In all Latin American countries and even Spain the best Spanish language is spoken by the professional and educated class. All of them will speak in correct Spanish language and will understand themselves without any problem. Why? Because educated people don’t use slangs, regionalist terms. etc. If you talk to a normal or regular person they will tend to use their own slangs that will have a meaning only for those people in that geographic area.


      • I have found that too. I do well with many of the people, but I have a harder time with the gardeners, working guys on bikes, etc. Sometimes they try to teach me a few slang words but i have enough trouble getting mainstream words to stick.


      • tombseekers says:

        Yaira is my teacher and she’s the best. I started with her at Habla Ya. She allows me to get lessons in her home since I want fct-to-face. I would recommend her 100% satisfaction guaranteed.


        • Oh cool, glad it is working out for you both
          I get the funniest looks sometimes when I go see her, like that gringa must be lost to be driving around here 😀 Now they are really going to wonder if more of us start showing up!


  2. One of the big reasons I chose Panama was the opportunity to start to learn a new language. I take lessons basically five days a week, and I am taught both privately and in group settings. I’m slow, but some things are beginning to sink in. I have a great teachers which makes it all so much easier and I know that Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will my Spanish. But with four months of practice before I go home and a really good internet program for when I do get home…well wait till next year!



  3. oldsalt1942 says:

    I have said this many times in many different places…YES, if you’re going to live here you MUST learn to speak Spanish.

    HOWEVER, at our ages, I’m rapidly approaching 75, forget about ever becoming FLUENT in the language. Isn’t going to happen and if that’s your goal you’re going to become very frustrated, angry with yourself and you will probably ultimately give up and spend all your time with all the other gringos so you don’t have to speak anything other than English and Spanish only under duress.

    What you need to do is become PROFICIENT in Spanish. By that I mean you need to be able to go to the Cable Onda offices and set up an account or change your address and do it in Spanish! NEVER, EVER, EVER walk into a place of business and say, “Does anyone here speak English?” NEVER, EVER, EVER!! At LEAST have the courtesy to learn the phrase, “Lo siento, yo no hablo español.” Just saying those magic words (I’m sorry, I don’t speak Spanish) will change the whole way you’re treated. If there’s anyone around that speaks any English they will be happy to help.

    Buy a SMALL English/Spanish dictionary that you can keep in your pocket and NEVER leave home without it. I’ve been here nearly eight years and I ALWAYS have my dictionary with me. As I ride the bus and see a word I don’t know, and there are STILL a lot of them, I dig in my backpack and look the word up. Most of them don’t stick, but eventually they do.

    All in all, Buena Suerte


    • Roger says:

      My advice has been: The best way to learn a new language is to be forced to speak in that language. Mingle with people that speak that language. Yes, yes I know that people in Panama will try to speak you in English because they are also trying to learn that language and will take the opportunity to talk to any person whose native language is English. But being forced to communicate in that language makes you little by little to understand and be understood in that language. Forget the accent. Forget the mistakes with tenses, genders, etc you may have. People here don’t care but will be happy for the effort you are doing and will try to help you.

      I know that this example is not good but…. look “wild bill”. He is able to speak and communicate very well in Spanish now than a couple of years ago. He has been forced to communicate in Spanish to survive in the jail.

      … and yes. You can.!!


      • I have a friend trying to learn English and it’s always a fight about which language we use. It usually ends up a combination. Once I got fussed at for using English in a store (the guy wanted to practice and I was very happy I could explain that in Spanish).

        You are right, everyone has been super nice about helping me, explaining new words, waiting patiently if I have to look for a word in my head, and even drilling me on vocabulary. I think I’ll stick with living in a Panamanian neighborhood though, maybe not as effective as jail but a heck of a lot nicer! 😀

        Liked by 1 person

    • Yes indeed. If I can conduct business and have relationships with my friends and neighbors, I am very happy.
      I must be doing better. I haven’t been carrying my dictionary in a while, but I will admit to still looking up vocabulary for new situations.


  4. Tomas Beard says:

    Google Translate is an excellent app that can help in a pinch:-)


    • Roger says:

      This Google app could help you on specific situations but…. sometimes the translation are so bad that the real meaning is lost and you end saying another thing than nobody will understand very well.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I’ve used it occasionally but I’ve had better luck with a dictionary. The person you are talking with can look at the word choices with you and figure out which one works best for the situation.


  5. jim and nena says:

    Hola Kris, I had occasion to do some technical teaching to a group of Venezuelans. I taught much of it in Spanish but made them do exams and exercises in English. Some of my Spanish was a mystery to them and some of theirs was a mystery to me. Sometimes I knew the words but it didn’t help. An example:

    We were working in the factory and a very skinny young lady passed with her pile of paperwork for various workstations. After she had passed us a couple of times, one of the students remarked, “pañuelo magos”, and all the students chuckled. I understood “magician’s handkerchief” but did not get the joke. I figured I had misheard the words and asked the student to repeat. Yep, same words but still no clue. Another student explained, holding up an imaginary hanky and turning it front to back like the magician and said, “nada delante y nada por detrás”. Language fluency is only half the battle.


    • Yes, there are expressions here that I don’t get either. I’d have to hear them a number of times, like learning new words. I remember when we were in Nicaragua a lot of the vegetables had different names and it took me a few days to get used to the accent. But I think if you can manage the basics and hold a conversation, its all good!


      • jim and nena says:

        Nena and I have our own version of Spanlish. Keeps the gringos and the Latinos on their toes trying to follow us. Nena still says she “not can” get the TV to work. And most calls for help get answered with “Que?”. “Quiere hot dogs” is a common lunch question.

        I should probably publish a book.


  6. I use tutors too, mainly as a confidence booster. Another program that really helped me was Synergy Spanish. I started speaking in compound sentences within 2 days of using this program. Also, Say Something in Spanish was very helpful. It allowed me to pick up advanced techniques easily.

    Continued success with your learning.


    • For me, a teacher expecting my homework tomorrow is a good motivator to get busy. And of course you can ask questions, practice with feedback, etc. A friend of mine is loving Synergy Spanish. I’ll, have to check out Say Something in Spanish, haven’t seen that one. Duolingo is another popular tool. Thanks for the comments and the tips!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi Kris. Thank you for any recommendations with learning Spanish. I’ve been living in Spain for a year and picked up quite a bit of Spanish by hanging out with locals and studying in a Spanish language course at University of Alicante.
    Being a language teacher myself I know the difficulties of learning a foreign language too well. That is why I decided to be the host of a different language course taking place this year in Alicante Spain in spring. Too bad that Panama is on the other side of the pond but there might be some other folks interested… Please let me know! To all language learners never: give up on your goals and keep studying! Sometimes you can’t see any progress but when you hang in there you will see a progress. Don’t give up. Best , sA

    Liked by 1 person

    • Someone recently sent me pictures of the scenery in Spain and it looks gorgeous! I hope you are enjoying your time there.
      Yes, we aren’t close to Spain, and I think your Spanish is quite a bit different from Panamanian Spanish but as you said, maybe one of my readers would be interested in studying with you if they are in Spain.
      Yep, one must hang in there. When I get discouraged I try to think of all the words I use now that I didn’t know last year.
      Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Pingback: Shipping Your Vehicle and Household Items to Panama, a Guest Post | The Panama Adventure

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