Spanish by the River – Learning Spanish in Boquete, Panama

“Anoche nosotros…what’s the word for ants again?”

“Hormigas!”

The final morning of our stay at Spanish by the River began much the same as the previous two weeks – myself and three of my friends sitting under one of the outside classrooms for our early morning Spanish class. As usual, our teacher started each class by asking how we spent the night – and, as usual, one of my classmates began to recount his nightly “invasion” of ants in his hostel room, though his dramatic tales garnered only eye-rolls from the rest of us because, after two weeks, if ants were the main concern, did we really have anything to complain about?

(photo courtesy of Spanish by the River)

(photo courtesy of Spanish by the River)

Located in the village of Boquete, Spanish by the River is one of the several “Spanish At…” schools found throughout Panama and Costa Rica. For those interested in the small-town feel of Boquete instead of adventure-based Bocas Del Toro or the urban setting of Panama City, Spanish by the River is a great option for studying Spanish in Panama.

The school itself is located just outside of downtown Boquete. While you could potentially walk from the school’s hostel to the town, it’s much more feasible to hop on a bus or call a cab. So, that said, if you’re looking forward to spending every night out and about in Boquete, I recommend looking into other schools as well.

During my stay in 2012, my school had rented the entire hostel, so I cannot comment on what staying there is like during high season or even when anyone else is there taking lessons. We spent approximately 10 days at the Boquete location, where we stayed in the hostel and partook in a few hours of Spanish classes each morning.

(Photo courtesy of Spanish by the River)

(Photo courtesy of Spanish by the River)

In total, 5 of us attended class each morning – myself, three other friends on the trip, and our Spanish teacher. It was a unique mixture to say the least – I was in Spanish 2 but much better at writing than speaking or comprehending, two of my friends were in advanced Spanish 3 and much better at comprehension than me, and my other friend often forget she was in Panama and answered questions in German instead. Though we were interested in learning, we were far from the most serious group and often interjected laughter and silly comments into the lesson.

Each Spanish class followed a similar pattern. We’d gather in one of the outside classrooms in the morning, where we would attempt to talk about the previous night, using only Spanish, and then review any homework we may have had. Then we’d move on to the day’s new lesson – typically a specific aspect of grammar, along with corresponding and relevant vocabulary. Our teacher encouraged speaking so we were frequently asked questions to answer in Spanish.

The best way to learn Spanish? Have fun.

Or, at least, that’s what the teacher said, as he passed out lyrics to a Spanish song. Learn this, he said. It’s a romantic song. It will be fun.

The next day, after realizing that no, we were not going to sing to him, he brought out a Spanish Monopoly featuring many Panamanian landmarks we had seen or would be seeing, It was through these lessons that we were able to gain more knowledge on the culture and, I must say, we might have learned more relevant Spanish than in our more formal lessons.

Spanish by the River

(Photo courtesy of Spanish by the River)

The school also sets up and informs students about various cultural activities as well. For example, one night we found ourselves at a salsa class and another found us in Boquete at a festival we never would have known about otherwise.

Studying at Spanish by the River also comes with the option to stay in the hostel – which, I might add, is a good option. It’s a small hostel but perfect for a small group. The beds were comfortable, the showers were super clean, and the atmosphere was relaxed. Plus, the outside is beautiful. More evenings than not were spent with our laptops outside as we swung on the hammocks.

Though Spanish by the River offers volunteer opportunities I recommend checking into them beforehand – ours, at no fault of Spanish by the River, was unsatisfactory so just be sure to do your research.

Overall, if you’re planning to stay Spanish in Central America, Spanish by the River is a good place to start! The staff is friendly, the lessons are superb, and the location is perfect for a laid-back feel with easy accessibility to other major attractions.

You can visit Spanish by the River’s website here.

29 thoughts on “Spanish by the River – Learning Spanish in Boquete, Panama

  1. Samantha Angell

    What a fun experience for you! One of my good friends owns a Spanish immersion school in Minnesota, and recently adopted a 15-month-old boy from Colombia. From the sounds of your experience, Spanish by the River is a great way to learn Spanish in a more fun and relaxed way. Classroom settings can be difficult, so I bet this was a great way for you to really enhance your learning!

    Reply
    1. Sky Post author

      That’s interesting – I’ve never heard of a Spanish immersion school in the States! And yes, Spanish by the River and learning in-country in general really did enhance my learning!

      Reply
  2. Jeanine

    Wow now this sounds like a wonderful experience to have! I would love to learn Spanish and visit Panama. It looks so beautiful in photos I have seen. This looks like a lovely place. I need to travel more, I am missing so much!

    Reply
    1. Sky Post author

      Panama is a beautiful country to visit and it’s tourist-friendly, making it great for first-time travelers as well. I would definitely recommend learning Spanish there!

      Reply
  3. Brianna K

    I think this would be the best way to learn Spanish! I can just imagine how fun it was for you to learn in song and games. I wish they would have taken that approach when I was in high school. I would love to swing in a hammock(without a computer in my lap) and just enjoy the peacefulness I get when I see your picture.

    Reply
    1. Sky Post author

      I agree – I wish high school took the fun approach to Spanish! It was so peaceful there, we spent a ton of time just laying in the hammocks talking.

      Reply
  4. Giveaways 4 Mom

    This looks like a great place to go. I know some Spanish but only basic words. If I were to become bilingual Spanish would definitely be the language that I would focus on. I love how it is so similar to English.

    Reply
  5. Jamie | North of Something

    This sounds like a great way to learn and practice a new language. How good is your Spanish now? I took a couple years in high school and a couple more in college and like you I’m much better at reading or writing than I am trying to understand natives speak! I’m trying to learn German now and I’m wishing I had spent all that time learning German instead of Spanish! But really Spanish is spoken a lot more throughout the world 🙂

    Reply
    1. Sky Post author

      My Spanish is okay – unfortunately, I never kept at it after high school (which is when I took this trip). I’m doing more intensive Spanish classes when I head to Central America this week, though!

      Reply
    2. Sky Post author

      My Spanish is okay – unfortunately, I never kept at it after high school (which is when I took this trip). I’m doing more intensive Spanish classes when I head to Central America this week, though! Good luck learning German!

      Reply
  6. Terri Ramsey Beavers

    What a cute place to learn Spanish. I wish I could speak Spanish and keep saying that I’m going to take classes but I’ve yet to find anywhere that actually gives Spanish lessons around here, even though we have a lot of Spanish residents in our town and neighboring towns.

    Reply
    1. Sky Post author

      If traveling somewhere like Panama isn’t an option, I would recommend looking for a one-on-one tutor. Check Craigslist or community boards or talk to one of your Spanish neighbors – you’ll likely find someone willing to teach you. Plus they’ll probably give you more real world experience than a classroom!

      Reply
  7. Natalie

    Now THIS is way to learn another language! If the best way to learn a language is to have fun, then that explains why I can barely read a word of Spanish despite taking near daily classes from 6th grade to my second year in college. :/ I never got any real world experience in the language, so it was basically like learning Latin or some other academic language. I bet if I immersed myself in a place like this, I’d have liked the experience SO much better!

    Reply
    1. Sky Post author

      I had such an issue learning in my regular high school classes as well, especially since I cyber-schooled. Real world experience, where you have to talk, is definitely the way to go!

      Reply
  8. Travel Junkie

    Sounds like a fun time! I have yet to go to Panama, but that photo of the school looks like the place is beautiful. It also seems like you are doing great with your Spanish, but if you ever want to practice Spanish with another blogger, let me know 🙂

    Reply
    1. Sky Post author

      Panama is a beautiful country for sure! I’m actually heading to Costa Rica for more immersive Spanish lessons but I would love to practice with you sometime! 🙂

      Reply
  9. Michelle Hwee

    What a great place to learn a new language! I love the atmosphere of it, seems very calming and a easy place to get fully immersed in the language. I love the Spanish language, I find it so beautiful, calming and quite popular. I love the that the class also takes you to cultural events, I find those the most fun as it really gives you a hint into the Spanish/Hispanic lifestyle/culture as well.

    Reply
    1. Sky Post author

      I agree, Spanish is definitely a beautiful language. My favorite part was the cultural events – I love seeing how things are different from my own life.

      Reply
  10. Yona Williams

    That’s very cool to learn Spanish like that – and it sounds like it was fun to do it with a group that wasn’t so serious. I took 6 years of the language from middle to high school, and then wound up living in a Spanish-speaking house for 3 out of 4 years in undergrad. From my experiences, the best way to learn Spanish was watching novellas (Spanish soap operas) with your roommate.

    Reply
    1. Sky Post author

      Oh, watching Spanish soap operas actually sounds like fun! Any recommendations for ones to watch? And yes, learning with a few of my friends definitely made it so much fun!

      Reply
  11. Angel Young

    This sounds like something I HAVE to do some day. I learn languages so much better in that sort of environment, instead of just book learning. One of the doctors I work for is constantly learning new languages, and it’s been rubbing off on me some, so he’ll play music and try to hold conversations with me and other employees to help us learn as well. I’m pretty awful but I’m starting to pick up parts of his German conversations and songs lol.

    Reply
    1. Sky Post author

      Total immersion is definitely the way to go! Though fun things like music and conversations with co-workers are helpful too. 🙂

      Reply
  12. Pingback: The Great Central America Adventure - Month 1 Recap - Sky vs World

  13. Beth

    I spent three weeks in Boquete in January 2014 and stayed at Spanish by the River. I loved the area and the people, but was disappointed in the school — very disorganized, had a myriad of problems, especially with the homestay. The hostel was much better. There were no male teachers when I was there, so I’m glad you had a good teacher, and while I had a good one, I also had a poor one who spent most of my classtime talking only about her religion (but in Spanish, so I still learned stuff! lol) I believe they were undergoing a transition with management, so hopefully they are better now, but I felt I wasted most of my time there, academically speaking.

    Reply

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