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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 Online Spanish Lessons helped my Spanish before Relocating to Panama

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This is a testimonial by Habla Ya Spanish student Kris Cunningham from Florida, USA. If you, as Kris, would like to have a shot at winning some free Spanish lessons over Skype, click here for more information about what you need to do...

Hi, my name is Kris and I’m an Habla Ya student. It almost sounds like a twelve step program, doesn’t it? Maybe it is – twelve steps towards a new skill and a new life experience. My new life experience is living in David, Panama.

I like people. I like to talk with people. If I couldn’t, I would be frustrated and lonely. Unfortunately I wasn’t issued a brain that makes this easy in a new language. Math? Science? Computers? Sure, no problem. Language? Oh no. My head is both a stone that won’t let anything in, and a sieve that leaks it all back out.

I first started learning some Spanish for my job in the US. As a home health nurse, I had an occasional patient who didn’t speak English. I listened to Spanish lessons in my car, and made vocabulary lists for upcoming visits. I was amazed and encouraged when people understood me.
I first started learning some Spanish for my job in the US. As a home health nurse, I had an occasional patient who didn’t speak English. I listened to Spanish lessons in my car, and made vocabulary lists for upcoming visits. I was amazed and encouraged when people understood me.

I got more serious and hired a teacher, an Argentinean man, a former realtor and casualty of the economic downturn. He didn’t know how to teach. He wasn’t thrilled about the medical subject matter I requested either. How do you say “If the bandage is green and smells bad, go to the hospital”? eeww

Next, I found “My Personal Language Tutor” and started on line classes with a bilingual Mexican guy. He was a professional teacher and I started making more progress. But, it was only an hour a week and some homework, so progress continued to be slow.

Meanwhile, my husband was looking at retirement options and focusing in on Panama. We scheduled a visit. I loved the country immediately! But I felt so inadequate when I tried to communicate. I was lucky if I understood anything, and I could only express myself a little. We visited a couple more times. Things were better on each visit but I still had a long ways to go. But, we were also more and more sure that we wanted to live in Panama, and we wanted to do it sooner rather than later!

My teacher took a full time job and had to give up his on line students. I had seen Habla Ya on the Internet and decided to give them a try. It would be good to have a Panamanian teacher so I could become familiar with the local style of speaking and the local customs. At this point our target date for moving was only six months away. It was time to get serious! I was charged with communication in the family, so it was up to me to get with it.

Yaira, my online Spanish teacher, continued to be my teacher once I moved to Panama. It was very nice to already have a friend in Panama once I made the move.
Yaira, my online Spanish teacher, continued to be my teacher once I moved to Panama. It was very nice to already have a friend in Panama once I made the move.

But, class FOUR days a week?! And, my teacher did not speak English? Not at all?? Oh my. This actually turned out to be a very good thing. You can’t cop out and revert to English if it gets difficult. I was still working so all this study was a lot of time out of my week. But, when you know your teacher will be expecting to review your homework tomorrow, you are a lot more likely to get busy and do it. Learning a language takes time, and the only way to do it is to do the time. I really needed to put in these hours.

Classes went well. I loved my teacher and we quickly became very good friends. She kept things interesting by mixing up grammar, reading assignments, writing assignments, conversations, and other activities, all with great kindness and patience. I still have the head of stone, and I doubt she knew how many notes I had on my desk for things I was supposed to have learned and remembered. But, we kept on, and little by little things stayed in my head. Little by little I understood more, and was able to say more. After a while she was joking about the early days when she heard “no entiendo” (I don’t understand) all the time.

I have been in Panama for eight months now. I am far from fluent but I am so thankful for what I do know. I live in a Panamanian neighborhood and very few of my friends and neighbors speak English. My best friend speaks none at all. I thank my teacher every day for helping me to get this far. There are good days when things go wonderfully. There are bad days when I don’t understand anything. Frequently I don’t have the words that I need and pull out my dictionary. I never leave home without it! I still get frustrated. But, I can communicate! How different this experience would be if I couldn’t.

The nature in Panama is simply stunning, but hands down the best is its people. Here I am with a group of my local friends by the river.
The nature in Panama is simply stunning, but hands down the best is its people. Here I am with a group of my local friends by the river.

There are many things to love about Panama but for me, at the very top of the list, are the people. We feel accepted, respected, loved, and welcomed. I see the surprised and delight when we talk with them in Spanish, and tell them how much we enjoy Panama. My experience here is so much richer, so much easier, and so much more joyful because of my relationships with these Panamanian people. Thank you Yaira, my Habla Ya teacher, for your friendship, patience, kindness, and persistence!

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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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