No matter what the reason you’re living in Panama for (or even visiting), you’re going to want to know, and learn as much Spanish as possible while you’re here. This is not only a great way to get by, but will endear you to the locals in a way that you can’t do without speaking their native language. Panama is a country of contrasts, cultures, and yes, languages. And that means that lots of languages are spoken, and respected amongst Panama’s inhabitants. Spanish, however, is the country’s official language, as well as its most widely spoken. We recommend you start learning a bit before you arrive, and hitting the ground running once you get here. To make things easier for you, we’ve put together a list of 5 great ways to practice, and master your Spanish while in Panama!
1. Watch TV/Movies in Spanish.
This is an easy, and fun way to pick up on nuances that you may not get in class, or from a book or app. If you’re a beginner, try watching kids shows, or simple, non-dialogue heavy movies (action, teen movies). When you start getting better, try watching local newscasts. You will learn a ton of vocabulary, as well as (often) proper pronunciation. Even better, you’ll stay up to date with what other Panamanians are watching/paying attention to, and this will give you lots to talk about (and practice Spanish) with locals.
2. Take group classes.
It’s a no-brainer that one of the fastest ways to learn Spanish would be to take Spanish classes, but you’ll find you’ll learn much faster in a group setting. Why? It’s simple. Although you get less attention from the teacher, you’ll have a pier group that’s more or less at the same level as you. This way you can comfortably bounce questions off them, learn from their mistakes (as well as yours), and their successes. Plus, it’s a great way to make friends, and will help boost your confidence when talking in public.
3. Hang out in social settings where Spanish is the only language spoken.
While the mere sound of this may seem scary, especially if you’re not confident with your Spanish, this is the most effective way to practice and learn any language. Yes, it’s tough, and frustrating, but it will also jump start your brain into making you communicate. Most Panamanians will be patient with you as you practice, and the mere fact that you’re trying your hardest will make people want to hang out with you even more. It’s a win/win in our books, even if it takes some getting used to.
4. Talk to your taxi/Uber driver.
Drivers love to talk to their customers. It’s a worldwide fact, and Panama is no different. Being in the car all day can get lonely, and drivers are often curious to talk to foreigners, to find out more about them, and why they chose Panama to work, live, or retire. This is like a free (well, you still need to pay the fare) one-on-one Spanish class, and you can get a lot of practice with simple small talk as well. Taxi and Uber drivers are very local, so it’s also a great way to learn about local politics, social trends, music, and pick up on the local accent.
5. Download a companion app.
There are so many great language apps out there, that not having one would be silly if you’re actively trying to learn Spanish. Apps will give you on-the-fly tips and vocab as you go through your day-to-day life in Panama, and will add huge value to your classes, as you will be continuing your language education long after you leave the classroom. We’re all on our phones all the time anyways, so you might as well take advantage, and sharpen your Spanish skills while you’re at it.