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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!


How to Prepare for the DELE Exam in Latin America

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"Guest blogger and former Habla Ya Spanish student Ariana Lopes shares with us how she successfully prepared and passed the C2 Dele Test, and obtained the most difficult Cervantes diploma."

This past August I wrote the C2 level DELE exam in Costa Rica after studying and preparing with Habla Ya Panama Spanish School for about 4 months. It's definitely not an easy exam to pass, but it's worth getting the diploma if you would like to work, study or live in Latin America, or even to boost your resume for work at home. So if you are interested, here is some information and advice about how to prepare yourself for it.

Ariana Lopes in local artisan shop in Boquete, Panama
Ariana, Habla Ya Student who successfully passed the C2 DELE Exam, at Local Artisan Shop in Boquete, Panama

The DELE Spanish exam is the only official and internationally recognized exam of Spanish as a foreign language and it can be written at any level, from beginner (A1) to mastery (C2). It has 5 parts: listening comprehension, reading comprehension, writing ability, grammar and vocabulary, and an oral exam. The first thing to do is check out the DELE Cervantes website and look at some of the past exams. This will help you to familiarize yourself with the different levels, and based on that you can decide which level exam you want to write. If you're not sure which is the best DELE exam for you, you can also take Habla Ya's Spanish Placement Test (at no charge) and they'll get back to you with your current Spanish level, and then they will be able to "predict" how many hours of Spanish lessons you'll need to prepare for each DELE Test.

Step 2 is to get yourself enrolled in a DELE Exam Preparation Course, preferably in a Spanish speaking country. (And I'm not just saying that because I studied at Habla Ya!) You might think you can study for the exam on your own by just doing the passed exams and checking your answers, but if you don't have a qualified Spanish teacher it will be difficult for you to understand WHY one answer is right and another is not... and, of course, if you don't learn the "why" it will be very difficult for you to improve your language skills and ensure you don't make the same mistake again. So why do you have to do this in Latin America? If you want to become confident and fluid with your Spanish speaking skills, you need to practice outside of class - living with a host family, going out with friends, going to stores and restaurants, and other daily activities are great ways to practice that you just won't get at home. In addition, reading the newspaper, listening to the radio or watching TV in Spanish are important ways to familiarize yourself with the language, local expressions, and accents. (As a plus, living in another country is a fantastic experience that will broaden your horizons and help you to grow as an individual).

Going out with friends and hanging out with the locals will help your practice your Spanish: Ariana with fellow Habla Ya students Paul (Holland), Nancy (New York), Andrew (United Kingdom) and Joe(Chicago)
Going out with friends and hanging out with the locals will help your practice your Spanish: Ariana with fellow Habla Ya students Paul (Holland), Nancy (New York), Andrew (United Kingdom) and Joe(Chicago)

Once you are in Spanish class, you should work through the past exams. Make sure you do all the exercises and you stick to the time limits. In the beginning, you can even start with past exams of the level below the one you want to write. It will familiarize you with the DELE format (for example, there is a specific format for writing letters) and it's a good review while you continue to work on new Spanish material in class. Make sure to ask questions! You need to understand what the logic is behind the answers, and that means knowing the rules about the subjunctive, the tenses, the difference between "por y para," etc. You should also try to finish each section a little early because it is crucial to take a few minutes to go back and read over your answers when you finish - you might catch spelling mistakes or realize that you need to change or add to an answer.

Ariana in class with her Spanish teacher Monica Vargas
Ariana in class with her Spanish teacher Monica Vargas

For many people, the hardest part can be the oral exam. This part is a little bit more stressful because you can't take as much time to think about your answer and you can't change it once it comes out of your mouth! Practice in class by speaking out loud on a subject to your teacher for 2 minutes. You can pick topics from photographs, from your daily life, from the newspaper - get creative, and get outside of your comfort zone. You never know what you'll have to talk about in the exam. It's harder than you think! Try not to hesitate (no "ums"), not to take long pauses between sentences, and be consistent (for example with the "tu" or "usted" form). Do this regularly and have your teacher write down mistakes you make while you speak so that you can discuss them afterwards and isolate your weakest areas.

Make sure that while you study the academic side of Spanish you continue to practice outside of class in the informal ways mentioned above (watching TV, speaking to local people) - it will take you from "classroom Spanish" to really using it as a second language.

Finally, on exam day, make sure to bring pens, pencils, your official ID, and a watch (cell phones are not allowed). Since the exam takes most of the day, you might want to bring water and some energy-boosting snacks as well. Take your time, read things through to make sure you understand the question before you answer. Most importantly, after all this studying you need to trust yourself. You'll do well!

By the end of the 4 months it took me to prepare for the C2 DELE Exam, I realized that I had more than I bargained (and paid) for. The Habla Ya team was like a family to me - the staff became good friends and I met many other people in town that made me feel at home here. I'd find myself walking down the main street waving to all the people I'd come to know, from the bus drivers to shop owners to fellow students and travelers. All of a sudden 4 months didn't seem long enough. I had to leave in June to do a job in El Salvador, and I went straight from there to write the exam in Costa Rica, where I reunited with a good friend, Celine (who was also going to present the C2 DELE Test), that I had met in Boquete at Habla Ya! It made me feel a lot better to be there with someone I knew who had been through the same journey. But my journey wasn't over yet! I decided to come back to Boquete after writing the exam in August and I have been here since then. I started teaching a salsa class, working, going out with friends - really living here, just like I had wanted to.

Ariana with Spanish teachers Ericka and Janeth enroute to hike the Quetzals Trail
Ariana with Spanish teachers Ericka and Janeth en-route to hike the Quetzals Trail

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT PREPARING THE SPANISH DELE EXAM IN LATIN AMERICA WITH HABLA YA...

"At Habla Ya we have been preparing students to pass the DELE Exam for the last 5 years... so far, all of our DELE candidates have successfully passed their DELE Test!"

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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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6 Responses to "How to Prepare for the DELE Exam in Latin America"

  1. Paul Daniels says:

    I think I still have a way to go before i will be anywhere near taking a DELE Spanish exam, but this is still useful.
    I will be coming to South America in 4 months, so will contact you about coming to your school.
    Gracias

  2. Arturo Singer says:

    thanks Habla ya

  3. joey says:

    Congratulation Ariana for passing the exams, and thank you for your advices on how to enroll and go about for a course.

  4. spanish lessons in california says:

    Thanks for the information regarding the DELE exam. I’ve always been curious to know the curriculum of Spanish language programs in locations other than the US. Here’s a useful site that discusses different foreign language programs — http://www.marialanguages.com.

  5. hablaya says:

    Hi Paul (is it Craig or Paul)?

    We’d be more than happy to help you prepare for the DELE… either at our Spanish School our through Online Spanish Lessons.

    We haven’t mentioned it on our website yet, but there is a special course through the AVE, our online Spanish learning platform, that is specially designed for preparing for the DELE Spanish exam, isn’t that great?

    We’ll be waiting to hear from you and hopefully have you as our student!

    ¡Que tengas una excelente semana!

  6. hablaya says:

    ¡De nada hombre!

    Estamos a la orden =).