Today we have a guest post by by Evelyne Meyer from Habla Ya, a wonderful Spanish language school with several locations in Panama as well as online Spanish classes. This is what Evelyne has to say:
Have you been playing with the idea of relocating to Panama? Or maybe you have done so already, and are just getting settled into your new home and acquainted with the unfamiliar surroundings?
In any case, CONGRATULATIONS! You won’t regret it! I did so myself 6 years ago, and my life has changed for the better to say the least! The air is cleaner, the landscape is prettier, the food is fresher and healthier, and last but not least the people are happier. They smile and are friendly to one another. I moved to Boquete from London, so trust me, the human aspect was a big change for me. Of course, you only notice the friendly nature of the local people when you actually interact with them, which leads me to my next question.
How is your Spanish?
If your answer is anywhere along the lines of “well, I can say hola, me llamo es…” or “I can order pizza and that’s about it”, then please do yourself a favor and learn the language “para ayer” as they say here.
Have you ever heard people complaining back home about those immigrants that “don’t even speak English”? Well, don’t be one of those in Panama =). You don’t want the Donald Trump equivalents of latin America to say “ when the USA or Europe are sending their people, they’re not sending their best…” LOL. You get my point, right?
By learning the language, you´re not only being a good expat by actually integrating properly (meaning you can be a nice neighbor, customer, friend to some local folks), but you will also improve your own quality of life tremendously. You won’t have to live behind closed doors in your gated community, and only have Bobs, Johns, François or Heidis to talk to. How boring would that be, right?
By learning Spanish, you will be able to actually get your own s*** together, and be independent. No more asking XYZ to translate something for you, no more hoping that the front desk manager at Banco General knows English, no more wondering whether you really need that special drill because it may be a hassle to describe it to the sales clerk at DoIt! Center.
Learning Spanish in Panama will make your life easier. A LOT! Take it from someone who knew very basic Spanish when she came here. I was able to order pizza (check) and I was able to say hello (check). But I wasn’t able to do much else. So I decided to take the bull by the horns and enrolled in some Spanish lessons at Habla Ya Spanish Schools.
I took 10 hours of private lessons, and these 10 hours changed my world completely. I speak French, so I pick up Spanish quite easily, but wow, what a difference. Now I can order spaghetti too (just kidding…). No, seriously! Now I make sales calls to potential business partners and negotiate with them. I would never have dreamed about being able to do this before. I am able to use sarcasm (which I personally consider proof that you actually master a language). My new skill makes me feel empowered and free, and now I can proudly say that I am truly at home in this beautiful country. I don’t feel intimidated by any situation or person anymore.
My teacher was Ismenia, a very nice lady from Bugaba who didn’t speak any English at all! This was perfect for me, because it forced me to get my point across without any crutches. It’s too easy to revert to English when you have the option to do so. Our classes were mostly conversational, but of course we would stop and discuss some grammar points whenever I made a conjugation mistake. I loved my classes, and time flew by. Had I had more time in Panama, I would have definitely signed up for more classes. The activities offered by the school also made learning fun, and gave me the occasion to meet other students (free salsa lessons, dinners, etc.).
Of course, I didn’t become fluent after only 10 hours. I took some more classes at a later date, but most importantly, I practiced my Spanish all the time. When I started working, I had no choice but to speak Spanish to my colleagues who don’t know much English.
Ideally, if you plan on moving to Panama, you should start learning the language even before you make the big move with online lessons. This of course also works for anyone who simply wants to avoid the commute to the school, and prefers to have classes from home. It gives you lots of flexibility with scheduling, and it’s basically the same as taking private lessons – only via video-conference. All you need, is a decent internet connection to make it happen.
I highly encourage any current or future expat to invest in Spanish lessons. You will not waste your money, trust me. You are investing in knowledge, which is one of the best “things” you can actually spend your money on. Talking about money, now is the time to get started. Habla Ya is currently offering an amazing promotion for expats, and you can read all the details here: 50% Off Spanish Lessons for Panama Residents – September Expat Course 2
The great thing is that it’s available at all 3 locations, meaning Boquete, Bocas del Toro and Panama City and works with online lessons too. So no more excuses. If you live here, learn Spanish and be happy!