“Ahhh..!! If I knew that not many people speak English in Panama, I would have practiced my Spanish before I came here!” said Jocelynn, browsing her Spanish-English book trying to communicate with a local in the bus. We still make fun of her because when the guy asked her out, she said “Sí” (yes) to him without knowing what it really meant. So, the local guy in the picture is called Jocelynn’s novio (boyfriend) among us.
It’s true that you don’t HAVE TO learn Spanish before you come to Panama because Kalu Yala interns tend to travel in a group, and there is always at least one person who can speak a little bit of Spanish. However, you will find your Spanish skills extremely helpful when you come to Panama (if you’ve been practicing any) because there are a lot of moments when we have to communicate with locals who don’t speak any English. For instance, Amanda, Zac and I have been learning how to weave a basket from a local Campesino, Ramon, who lives close to Kalu Yala’s base camp in the valley. It’s been two weeks since we started hanging out with Ramon, and as a result, we’ve learned how to weave a basket as well as have become masters of body language. I made a video of Amanda and Ramon because I find their conversations hilarious. Just watch. If you come to Panama without knowing any Spanish, this will happen to you too.
Of course, even if you don’t speak any Spanish, you can still get around with your body language and a variety of sound effects like Amanda. But I’m telling you~ It does come in handy if you practice a couple of phrases in Spanish before you come to Panama!
So, here are some phrases that we use everyday:
- ¿Cuánto cuesta? – How much is it?
- Vamos a ir a ….. – Let’s go to …..
- ¿Dónde está el baño? – Where is the bathroom?
- Hola/Buenas – Hello
- Adiós/Chao/Hasta luego – Bye
- Mucho gusto – Nice to meet you
- Me llamo ….. – My name is …..
- Me gusta ….. – I like …..
- Gracias – Thank you
- Está bien – It’s OK
Tengo hambre – I’m hungry
- Una cerveza, por favor – One beer, please
Don’t worry if you don’t speak any Spanish. Whether you know Spanish or not, it’s still worth coming down here. All you need to do is leave your pride at the door and try to get your point across with whatever it takes. Who knows?! At the end of the internship, you might be surprised by how much Spanish you’ve learned in Panama!