My language learning failures (yes, emphasis on the S as there were multiple) are no secret.
And neither was my nervousness before the first day of studying Spanish in Bocas del Toro. I don’t have a good track record with learning language (let’s be honest – I suck) and I was beyond apprehensive before restarting my Spanish studies.
But I had made a promise to myself, and I never break promises.
Studying Spanish in Bocas del Toro with Habla Ya
Upon arrival to the Habla Ya school office, I was ushered into a one-on-one live language test to determine my abilities. My anxiety levels hit the roof, and only continued to worsen. I felt queasy and embarrassed when I didn’t understand almost anything asked of me. I had to ask the tester to repeat even the simplest question two or three times, and still had to steal some glances at the written questions. I felt especially awful because the very first question was whether I had studied Spanish before (which I had, twice) and for how long (several years). The test concluded before all of the questions were asked, and I was led back to the office. Obviously, I suck.
After a quick review of my
totally awful results, I was accompanied to my classroom, all the while silently berating myself for being such a language dunce.
But upon reaching the friendly, welcoming class, I instantly felt better. Two other students greeted me, pretty much total beginners themselves, before the teacher arrived. I was jumping into the second week of A1 classes. Apparently, several years of high school and a semester of college Spanish could boil down into just one week of intensive classes at Habla Ya, at least for me.
While disappointed in myself that I could have spent so much time on a subject yet learned so little, I didn’t have long to despair.
The class started, and our professor Beni led us through fast-paced reviews, introduced new material, and played games like hot potato to keep everyone involved and the atmosphere light. Each day continued in a similar fun and upbeat yet educational fashion.
Almost every day, a new student joined the group, until the very last day when we had a total of 6 in our merry little band of beginners.
passing around the “hot potato” (“papa caliente”)
For me, three to six students felt like a perfect size – big enough to have interaction with fellow language learners, yet small enough to receive individual attention from the professor.
My class consisted of mainly young professionals (and a gap year student). It was fun to be surrounded by peers in a similar age group. There were a few older students in other classes, including a 40-something professional and a few retirees, but I found that most older students study in Boquete, and Bocas is overwhelmingly young.
My goals for studying Spanish in Bocas del Toro with Habla Ya were twofold. Most importantly, I wanted to improve my Spanish skills, of course. But I also wanted to make some friends, always important as a solo traveler. I can happily say that my expectations were exceeded in both areas!
After just one week of studying Spanish in Bocas del Toro, I graduated to the A2 level of language learning. The classes really helped me consolidate and recall previous Spanish instruction (those semesters of study at high school and uni weren’t total losses), and then quickly built on that foundation. I expanded my vocabulary, comprehension, and maybe most importantly of all for me – my confidence!
I left Bocas approaching language study with a lighter heart and a much stronger belief in my own ability to learn a language. Becoming bilingual no longer felt like an impossible pipe dream, and I dropped almost all of my limiting language learning habits.
need help? the guys in the office are always there to answer questions or give advice on Bocas
As for friends? I met so many amazing people through Habla Ya, spending my mornings in lessons with a few, and exploring the islands in the afternoon with others, and to this day I’ve stayed in touch with 3 very intelligent, inspirational, and awesome friends from Bocas.
two happy students studying Spanish in Bocas Del Toro
All in all – studying Spanish in Bocas del Toro was a total success, and I very much look forward to going back someday!
But my language learning adventures didn’t end in Bocas, as I continued on to Boquete to further my instruction! Stay tuned for updates on my experience in Boquete, and how it differed from Bocas.
Habla Ya is located conveniently on the edge of Bocas Town on Isla Colon.
Group classes are offered in the morning (check here for the latest updates), for four hours every weekday. I studied from 8am-12pm everyday, which left the beautiful afternoons deliciously free for beach hopping and exploring.
one of my favorite afternoon beach exploration finds
Private classes are also available, with the time and duration set to fit your schedule. Even if you’re only staying for a couple days, you can either start your Spanish journey or brush up on existing skills.
You don’t need to bring anything aside from a willingness to learn and a pen or pencil, as an awesome workbook is provided for you. If I could do it again, though, I would bring a Spanish-English dictionary with me.
As a student of Habla Ya, you’ll receive discounted tours and even free activities. Excursions and activities are organized every day of the week – sometimes with two offered in one day. My favorites? A trip to Isla Bastimentos and an organic chocolate tour!
Habla Ya in Bocas is mainly young professionals and gap year students but all ages and skill levels of Spanish are welcomed.
While I received free language lessons at Habla Ya Bocas del Toro, I was not paid nor obligated to write this post. I loved my experience so much that I plan to go back in the future for further study, and my opinions and recommendations remain my own and unbiased.