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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!


Total Spanish Immersion Programs – Will I Speak English?

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Today, I would like to address a recurring source of anxiety among future Habla Ya students. I am noting that lots of students are concerned about whether their Spanish teachers and host family will be able to speak English to them (at least a bit!). You may find this counter intuitive, as the goal of taking a full immersion Spanish course is to avoid English (or any other language besides Spanish). Yet, on many occasions, people ask for this "additional safety net", as if they were already anticipating total (communication) failure. It's natural to feel afraid of not being understood or not understanding, but that's exactly the fear that as an immersion student you have to overcome, as that's exactly what makes a true Spanish immersion so effective.

In reality there is nothing to fear! Hundreds of Habla Ya students go through this experience each year and the end result is Spanish fluency. So grab the bull by the horns, and tell yourself that you can do this! Not knowing the language is the very reason why you are coming to study Spanish with us in Panama in the first place. If you needed a bilingual teacher who speaks your language, you could easily just take a Spanish course in the USA, Canada, Europe or anywhere else ( click here to learn more about how we teach Spanish at Habla Ya...)

Don't be afraid: having your Spanish classes in Spanish is a very good thing. If your brain hurts, it's working.
Don't be afraid: having your Spanish classes in Spanish is a very good thing. If your brain hurts, it's working.

But in order to achieve your goal, you have to push your limits and get out of your comfort zone. Just compare it to physical exercise. You really can’t have a good workout session without breaking a sweat. Well, it’s the same thing when learning a new language. First you have to "shock your brain" (just like a muscle), your head will get “sore”, and finally you will reap the benefits of your efforts.

You can’t just sit in the gym, and expect to look like this without suffering a little:

I would like to reassure that you will be fine. And I mean that in all honesty. You would be surprised at how you can actually make yourself understood with just a few words or gestures. You will laugh at it, get frustrated, and eventually learn how to say what you want to say. That's just how our brains work!

When I was in middle school in Luxembourg, it was mandatory for us to learn French. None of us spoke the language at the time, but regardless, our teacher only spoke French to us. We didn’t understand anything at first, but since we had no choice, we learned quite fast. One day I heard her speak Luxembourgeois in the hallway to another teacher, and I couldn’t believe that she had fooled us all this time in making us believe that she didn’t speak it (we all thought she was French). That’s when I realized how awesome she was!

It is the same here at Habla Ya. You will be much better off learning how to ask your questions in Spanish, rather than taking the easy way out. Here are some examples for you to get you prepared: “How do you say XXX in Spanish?” (“Como se dice XXX en español?”). Or “I don’t understand” ("no entiendo"), or “can you repeat please?” ("Puede repetir por favor?"). Click here for even more tips and advice to prepare for your Spanish immersion program...

So please stop asking whether your teacher will be bilingual so that you can keep asking questions in English - The answer is no, because it is simply not in your best interest.

The same goes for your host family. I am often asked to select a family who knows “at least basic English”, and you can believe me that even if they existed, they would only speak Spanish to you. Our families know how important it is for you to learn their language, and are specifically instructed not to use any other language but Spanish at home.

I already see you frowning, and wonder: “But what happens if there is an emergency, or if I need to ask something really, really important?”

Don’t worry, you have a really caring team of consultants and front desk staff at your disposal to help you with anything you need. In English also, even though we try to avoid it. If you see me in the hallway, I will greet you in Spanish. You will find that weird (I am a Caucasian European, and always get mistaken for a student), but I am not doing it to sound cool. I am just doing you a favor =)

And at the end of the day you will reap the benefits: you will end up speaking Spanish, just as hundreds of Habla Ya students have done before you.

LEARN MORE ABOUT TOTAL SPANISH IMMERSIONS IN LATIN AMERICA... »

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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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