Mandarin Chinese is the language spoken by more people than any other in the world. Spanish is the second most popular language, with between 350-400 million native speakers. And English is not far behind in spot number three.
Almost 90% of the population in Panama speaks Spanish. So if you plan to be spending time in the country, you’re going to miss out on a lot if you don’t know the language! Fortunately there are enough options around so that you’re not going to be stranded if you don’t know any Spanish on day one. Panamanians are generally friendly and willing to help, and you can usually find someone available to assist with translation.
Learning Spanish today is more like picking up a new hobby rather than that old nightmare of conjugating verbs in high school. These days there are any number of ways to start building your fluency. All you have to do is find the one(s) that work best for you…….and practice! Here are a couple of options to explore.
- Find a tutor. Personal lessons can be pricey, but a local teacher will provide you with specific variations and inflections for where you live. You’ll also get immediate feedback on your pronunciation and grammar. A tutor can either be one-on-one, or you can participate (and share costs with) a group.
- Try an instructional audio or video. This is a great way for beginners to pick up the basics. Since the emphasis is on speaking, you’ll start improving your verbal communication skills right away. These programs are generally inexpensive and portable. The biggest downside is that there is usually little-to-no instruction in reading and writing.
- Purchase a software program. Companies are developing programs that utilize different styles of learning, so you can try various methods until you find the one that works best for you. These programs are often interactive, utilizing games and puzzles to keep things interesting. You can proceed at your own pace and repeat lessons as needed. Many companies also have online forums where you can go to practice speaking with others.
- Go online! New websites are taking creative approaches to facilitate Spanish instruction including mobile apps, social learning and “crowdsourcing”. These are often free or very nominally priced.
And while you’re working on your Spanish, keep in mind that things could be worse……at least you’re not having to learn Chinese!