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