Learning Spanish in Panama

I have been in Panama for almost two years now and I have not taken any Spanish classes while I have been here. I took several classes at my university before coming and I try to practice while I am here, but I feel like I still have a ways to go before I am fluent. I can have conversations with people in Spanish, order food, tell the taxi driver where I need to go, etc. It is great that I can get by everyday but I have been longing to further my knowledge of Spanish because not being fluent in Spanish in Panama really holds you back from fully enjoying the country. I have had several days where I get so frustrated that I am not able to jump into the conversation my Panamanian friends are having or being denied a job because they are not looking for someone who is half fluent in Spanish.

But I have had a pretty legitimate excuse for not being able to take classes because I really have not had the time or the money. While I have been in Panama I work full time as well as go to school. By the end of the day I am tired and even if I did have the energy I really did not want to fork out a couple hundred dollars for Spanish classes with my very Panamanian salary.

From January to May I have been out of classes because the last three classes I need are not offered until May. So for this time I really could not use my “I do not have time” excuse. I am also subscribed to daily Oferta Simple emails and during this time there was an offer for Spanish classes at Bristol Academy. I instantly bought it because it was 12 classes for $30 and I am never going to find a better deal than that. So I no longer had the ” I do not have the money” excuse.

I had never heard of the Bristol Academy but the classes were so cheap that did not matter. It was also located on V­a España which is perfect because it is only a 10 minute walk from my work in Obarrio. The first day that I went in I took a placement test and it was pretty easy, I got 100%. Then I met with Jose, who would be giving me Spanish classes, and we talked for about 30 minutes so that he could determine how advanced my level of Spanish was and what I needed to improve on. My level was pretty advanced but needed a lot of work.

The next day I went in for my first real class and it was pretty funny because when I open the door I saw one of coworkers. Neither of knew that we were both going to be taking the same class but I was happy to know someone. The other person was a girl from Ireland who bought the Oferta Simple as well. The classes that Bristol Academy offers are small groups, which was very different from my large Spanish classes of 30 people at my University.

For our first class we went over the preterite and imperfect Spanish tenses, which always give me trouble. I always speak in present tense to avoid using them. But after the class I felt a lot more comfortable being able to talk in past tense.

The classes are largely conversational and we do some writing as well. Being able to practice my Spanish conversation for an hour has really help to improve my Spanish. Jose also made it a “requirement” to watch Spanish television for 30 minutes a day and to read a book in Spanish outside of our classes. I really do not like a lot of the Spanish shows because they are kind of cheesy, so I have been watching an episode of The Office dubbed in Spanish every night. I also chose a book that I had read in English and found the Spanish translation of it.

I have been in the classes for about two weeks now and I am so happy that everything finally worked out for me to be able to take classes. I think my Spanish is really improving and I am gaining the confidence to speak It more around friends now. After my 12 classes are over I am definitely going to sign up for more (full price is just $10 a class).

My biggest recommendation anyone that is going to be living in Panama for a long time is to get learning Spanish over with first! You will enjoy your time in Panama so much more if you can fluently speak the language.

For more information about the Bristol Academy, visit

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