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We've been writing about all things Panama for over 10 years. So search our blog to plan your vacation. From must do's, where to party or eat, to which beaches and hiking trails you shouldn't miss. You'll find great insider info about Bocas del Toro, Panama City and Boquete, as well as Panamanian culture, customs and traditions, and certainly tips and advice for learning Spanish while on vacation!


Panamanian Spanish? What type of Spanish is taught at our Schools?

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When choosing a Spanish School there are many things to consider and it's only natural that students want to make sure that the Spanish they'll learn will be useful to them in any Spanish speaking country. Sometimes potential students at Habla Ya ask us about what type of Spanish is taught at our schools, if they will be able to understand Spanish speakers in other parts of the world and other similar questions.

Spanish speakers map

The variations among different speaker groups of the same language can be lexical (vocabulary), phonological (pronunciation), morphological (word forms), or in the use of syntax (grammar).

As explained bellow, lexically (vocabulary) there aren't many differences amongst Spanish speakers apart from the local slang of each country and a couple of non-significant exceptions (for typical Panamanian slang and useful phrases, check out this post....

Spanish Class in Panama at Habla Ya

Phonetically, Panamanian Spanish is more closely associated with the Spanish spoken in the coastal areas around the Caribbean, specifically the Atlantic coast of Colombia, Venezuela, and Nicaragua and in Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic (more to follow). And there really aren't any truly significant morphological and syntactic differences in Spanish spoken around the world.

We always like to clarify that Spanish speakers in Central America, South America and Spain, understand each other without any problem at all. If your goal is to speak and understand Spanish, it is not overly important where you learn it as much as it could be with French, German, or English. In these last three languages, people who speak it fluently but that are from different parts of the world sometimes (and the keyword here is sometimes) really struggle understanding each other: with Spanish that is never the case because Spanish speakers will always understand each other, apart from the slang relative to each place (but a short explanation will solve the slang barrier just as with other languages).

In that respect, it is said that that Spanish is a more homogeneous language than other languages. Take English for example: it is a fact that even people from England can have trouble understanding an Irish person but it has to do more with the accent and way they speak, than with the slang and different words used. In Spanish you will always be able to make out what people are saying.

On the other hand, amongst Spanish speakers, the most popular slang from different countries (lexical, vocabulary) is mostly known by speakers from everywhere (and in many occasions, jokes are made about them). Slang from Argentina, Mexico, Honduras or Costa Rica such as "ché", "pibe" "mala onda", "parse", "mae", "pura vida" and others, will be understood by Spanish speakers from Panama (and we have our own equivalents).

The main characteristic of Caribbean Spanish (Panamanian Spanish) is the aspiration of the /s/ sound at the end of a syllable or word, such as in the word cascada pronounced [kahˈkada] (more like an English 'h') instead of [kasˈkada]. This aspiration is also observed in the coastal regions of Peru and Ecuador and in Chile, Argentina and Uruguay, and in Andalucia and the Canary Islands (Spain). Another change observed in Panamanian Spanish is the substitution of a [ʃ] sound (as in the English word 'she') for words containing a 'ch' spelling, e.g. muchacho [muˈʃaʃo], among mostly the less educated speakers although it can sometimes be observed among better educated speakers. In the later case both the ch and the [ʃ] sounds can be heard in the same phrase.

At Habla Ya Panama Spanish Schools, you will learn proper Spanish that is grammatically correct (in Latin America; you address others with "tú" and "usted" and the "vosotros" and it's verb conjugations are not used as they are in Spain). Of course, your Spanish will be influenced by the specific accent of a university educated Panamanian teacher. In regards to slang, we do expose our students to Panamanian slang and the most popular slang of other Spanish speaking countries: at the end of the day, the purpose of language is to communicate, so how will you be able to communicate if you don't understand the slang used by many people?

Even if it doesn't matter that much where you learn Spanish, us, Panamanians, are known to speak very, but very fast, so one of the advantages of studying Spanish in Panama is that you are exposed to possibly the fastest speakers of Spanish in the world. Some people even say that if you can understand a Panamanian speaking Spanish, then you can understand any Spanish speaker (but it doesn't have to do with the accents or words, it's just because of the speed).

At the end of the day, it doesn't matter that much what type of Spanish is taught: make sure to choose a Spanish School with quality instructors, an effective methodology, nice accommodation, great extra-curricular activities, and choose a country that offers you the type of Spanish language holiday that your are looking for.

LEARN MORE ABOUT HOW WE TEACH SPANISH AT HABLA YA SPANISH SCHOOLS... »

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We've been writing about all things Panama for over 10 years. So search our blog to plan your vacation. From must do's, where to party or eat, to which beaches and hiking trails you shouldn't miss. You'll find great insider info about Bocas del Toro, Panama City and Boquete, as well as Panamanian culture, customs and traditions, and certainly tips and advice for learning Spanish while on vacation!


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4 Responses to "Panamanian Spanish? What type of Spanish is taught at our Schools?"

  1. Valene says:

    I am looking to learn Spanish, geared more towards Panamanian language, My husband is Panamanian we go to Panama often. I would like to be able to learn the language but I need more of a foundation than my husband trying to speak the language to me. I was wondering if there are any books, or cds available to help me? Also do you know of any children’s books for beginners in the Spanish language?

  2. hablaya says:

    Hola Valene!

    Good question…

    Depending on your learning style and needs you might find useful Rosetta Stone, Pimsleur, General Linguistics or Michel Thomas.

    For kids you might want to look into Risas y Sonrisas or our Spanish Classes for Kids.

    At Habla Ya we have our own Spanish Text Books and listening materials but unfortunately they aren’t for sale for non-students at the moment.

    And of course, if you would like to learn proper Spanish, you are more than welcome to come to our Spanish Language School. We’ll write you an email and hopefully we’ll be able to find out what would be the most appropriate Spanish Program for you and your family!

    Have a wonderful day!

  3. yuri says:

    mmm… porque será que tenemos esa fama los panameños de hablar rápido XD Yo acepto que si hablamos rápido, pero también tenemos palabras raras como lapesillo que es amigo aquí en Panamá
    Viva mi país xuxa loco