Two weeks ago, I had completed my one-week stay with Habla Ya Spanish Schools learning Spanish and immersing myself into the Panamanian culture.
How did time fly by so fast?
As I am reflecting on what I learned, I can say that I am much more confident in my Spanish. I begin conversations in Spanish with my husband and with others. I correct his grammar, which he loves since now I know how to speak properly.
And….I miss learning! I am deciding between what avenues I should take to continue to learn Spanish. Watching movies with subtitles is definitely something that I have already done and enjoy since I can catch on easily to the translation. I am looking now at apps I can use on my phone and generally reading in Spanish.
I also miss Panama – so very much. I loved the people, the way things were, the way the days went by with locals. I already told my husband that we are returning to Bocas del Toro in the future where he can experience all that I am telling him. It was such a relaxed place and reminded me of my days in Poland where everyone greeted each other, you could bike on a good dirt road, and animals were everywhere!
If you are looking to learn Spanish, immerse yourself into a different culture, and do it in a beautiful setting, then read on about my time with Habla Ya. It may be exactly what you are looking for and the price tag is very do-able.
Spanish Lessons with Habla Ya
Habla Ya Spanish Schools has three locations within Panama – Bocas del Toro (where I was), Boquete, and Panama City. A student can take lessons at all three schools where their progress is recorded and follows them. Two of my fellow students began with two weeks of Spanish in Boquete and then joined my class in Bocas del Toro. Everyone is on the same level, and the instructors are very good at matching students up to a class.
When you look at Habla Ya’s website, you will find a lot of information. This is great because most schools don’t give out as much information and you are left wondering and with questions. Everything is linked within the website and there is plenty of information on tours also so you don’t have to Google search on your own in a new tab.
Every student completes an online exam to provide their current level of Spanish. Once you enter the school, they may give you a quick verbal test in Spanish to see how you answer some questions. Most questions are from the written test and this is to see if you had forgotten anything since you completed the online version or if you have gotten more advanced, then it will be noticed.
Types of Lessons
You can sign up for many different lessons and learn in the way that is best for you.
You can have private lessons for two hours per day. You can join group lessons with four other students for four hours per day. There are also online Spanish courses via Skype. Specialty courses for those who are more advanced levels include Business Spanish, Medical Spanish, Spanish for Teachers, and Intensive Classes.
My Private Lessons
I began with private lessons since I arrived in Bocas del Toro mid-week.
My instructor was so friendly. I was given my own study book and printouts that we had completed together. Much of what we did in the first day was go through pictures and I would name the items in Spanish. I remembered more than I thought I did! We spoke in Spanish throughout the entire class – at least I tried to. So even using day-to-day language such as “What is this?” or “I want to __” or ” How do I say __” was used.
It really got me up to speed and made me realize where I needed more work. I was given homework which was one exercise to do in my spare time. I always happily completed it because it was fun going over what I had learned. I felt more prepared for my group lesson than ever.
My Group Lessons
I began my group lessons on the following Monday.
One cannot join a group mid-week which completely makes sense. Everyone meets each other and begins on a Monday. Everyone also begins on the same page, which is also meant to be taken literally since you have a workbook to follow and work from.
Spanish is spoken throughout the entire four hours, but of course if you need to say something in English go ahead! We began learning about adjectives, and the rules of verbs, and pronouns and so forth. All the grammar and different tenses of words were covered which is the basis for everything else.
We completed exercises in our workbook and went around as a group for the answers. It felt as if we had become one family and it was very relaxed. This is not a testing area where one gets judged for how much one knows or does not know. We had many laughs when we were trying to share stories or say certain things. It was more comfortable than learning Spanish in my elementary school!
Yes, you do get breaks within the four hours. They have a kitchen for you to store your food in and filtered water.
Costs & Payment
The lessons at Habla Ya are offered at a very reasonable cost. You can view the grid with all costs here.
Private lessons cost between $295 per week and up or beginning at $14.75 per hour.
Group lessons range from $175-305 per week. That is for 4 hours per day – 20 hours total per week. This is based on how long you want to remain in the group and if what group size of a class you would like to join. Restricted sizes are offered at only 2-3 students. Groups max out at 6 students.
You pay a $99 deposit to hold your spot. This goes towards your cost and is not anything extra unless you cancel last minute. You pay the remaining balance upon arrival to the school. The U.S. dollar is the official currency in Panama.
One can choose their own accommodation or ask the schools which hotels/hostels/home stays they work with for a special rate.
The schools offer many activities and there is a board which lists them for the seven days out. Activities include home cooked dinners at the schools, dancing lessons, and group dinners among the students. Tours are also offered where students can sign up to join one together for a special price. These can include diving lessons, caving tours, biking afternoons, and days at other beaches.
These are great ways to become closer with the fellow students, have a group of people to go with (that you know are at the school also) and snag a better rate than booking on your own.
I attended the Cave Tour which included individuals that I had seen around the school, but never actually met. It was great to finally spend time with them! I was set up for scuba diving and never had to worry about calling the dive shop on my own. I was given a time and place of where to meet and it felt so nice to have the rest taken care of me.
I am one to book my own excursions, and for a change, I enjoyed having the school do the booking for me.
I will continue learning Spanish. I will continue to visit Spanish-speaking countries.
While I would have stayed in Bocas longer, family events called me back home.
My fellow students remained in Panama. One was going to hike a volcano and then take two more weeks of Spanish at the Boquete location. Another peer was staying for a month or so. A different peer was on a year-long trip abroad and Panama was his stop for the next few month or two.
I’m continuing to complete my workbook from Habla Ya as there are more exercises for me to do. I can’t wait to speak it more and more as the days go by!
Have you been to Habla Ya? Which location and how was your experience?
*Many thanks to Habla Ya Spanish Schools for hosting me at their Bocas del Toro location. Thank you to the staff who took good care of me, the instructors who taught me well, and even the cleaning staff who kept it tidy everyday for everyone.
This post was written in sponsorship by Habla Ya who covered my stay at the school, my lessons, and my diving and caving tour in exchange for this post.”