Learning Spanish in Panama 

Living in California means we need to know how to communicate in Spanish. Unfortunately aside from knowing how to order our favorite Mexican cuisine, and counting to ten, Eddie and my boys aren’t well versed in picking up the language.  

   I have limited language skills, fine tuned when traveling in Latin America, spruced up after a couple university level grammar classes, but still I speak like a two year old.  

So to start our three week adventure touring Panama, I arranged a couple immersion language classes through Spanish Panama. Since three year old Nikko can not sit still through a twenty minute TV show, we asked our instructors to take us around Panama City while giving us basic language skills. 

Jaime started with a quick tutorial on days of the week, colors, animals, and months of the year before taking us to the local favorite El Trapiche for traditional Panamanian lunch. 

Kai peppered him with questions on how to talk sports as we motored over to Casco Viejo, Panama’s lovely Colonial old city. He learned how to say, “Vamos Warriors!!!” and “Gigantes!” like a champ. 

Jaime talked us into an after hours visit to the presidential palace, teaching us quickly that knowing the language gets you way further than Nikko’s cute face. Then he gave us tips on how to negotiate taxis and bid us a lively “ciao”. 

Meandering through the old town, attempting to communicate proved a challenge for the kids. Using plenty of pantomime and cute smiles, they made friends in cafes, bars and shops, but felt frustrated by their limited language abilities. Nikko couldn’t grasp why the waiter didn’t understand his queries about his favorite basketball team or ice cream flavors.  

So then next day when Maria, our teacher, arrived, we asked for more of a vocabulary lesson. She managed to instruct us through ordering the freshest ceviche at the famed Mercado des Mariscos fish market, plus kid friendly fish fingers.  

   Then she finagled a dirt cheap cab fare to score ice cream and coffee in Casco Viejo, even letting Eddie and I take care of the ordering.  

 However when we got to negotiating souvenirs, Maria took the lead, proving eight hours of language instruction barely scratches the surface when it comes to bargaining with a native speaker. 

Nikko and Kai have their numbers, greetings and salutations down. Lucky for us, we have two more weeks of immersion for them to dive deeper into the intricacies of Spanish. Because as of now it’s all me fumbling through horrible conjugations, and embarrassingly minimal vocabulary to speak for mi familia. 

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