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“Excellent experience”

Habla Ya Spanish Courses & Ecotourism
Certificate of Excellence
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Owner description: Why just learn Spanish? Live your Spanish learning experience! Learn Spanish in Boquete, a charming town and a dream setting place full of friendly faces and exciting adventures. Have the time of your life and live the most amazing Spanish learning experience! Habla Ya Panama Spanish School, Panama's premier Spanish school, is one of the top specialist Spanish training institutions in Central America and one of the leading providers of Spanish courses in Latin America.
Reviewed December 18, 2012

Over the course of 7 months spent in Panama, I studied at Habla Ya for 17 weeks all in all, for between 4 and 6 hours per day. As well as studying at the school,
I spent time volunteering in a hostel in Bocas del Toro, and living with a Panamanian family in Boquete (the latter arranged by the school). The standard of teaching
was invariably excellent. I had a few teachers throughout my time at both schools, but all were incredibly professional and able to put you at ease. This is crucial,
as the more comfortable you feel, the more confident you are to talk about yourself and use more advanced spanish structures. And make mistakes - this is how you improve!
My spanish speaking and comprehension has improved infinitely over the course of my lessons. And I have the teachers and staff at Habla Ya to thank for this. Whilst I
know it is a cliché, I now genuinely consider the Habla Ya staff as friends moreso than just teachers.

I cannot recommend the place enough - great staff, good atmosphere, excellent locations, and enjoyable local excursions. I was genuinely sad to leave.

Thank Jwfmonk
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviewed December 6, 2012

Overall I had a good experience with Habla Ya. I spent 7 weeks in group classes in Boquete and 3 weeks in private classes in Bocas del Toro. Like anything else in life, every learning experience depends on many different variables, such as your motivation, your relationship with the teacher and students, the teaching method utilized, etc. Thus, I strongly emphasize not to expect a magical solution to learning Spanish in 2+ weeks. It takes time, and every individual is different. In my experience, Habla Ya doesn't have a special method of teaching that will magically have you speaking spanish in no time....Instead, it is the consistency of class time, and the living environment (if you are in a spanish speaking homestay) that will likely do you the most good; as well as how much you use Spanish outside of the classroom. 

Some other points to emphasize include the following:

- The group classes may work well for you, but I honestly think private classes are more beneficial if you want to be practicing as much as possible. Sometimes student groups don't click well, or some students may monopolize the class time. Plus, with up to 6 students in a group, it's difficult to get much speaking time in. So, it is wise to think about private lessons as an option.

- 4-5 (max) hours of class time is typically more than enough. I know students that were taking 6 hours a day, and it seemed to be too much. 

- I would recommend all students to sign up for no more than 2-3 weeks of classes or a homestay at one time. In 2-3 weeks, you will have a good idea if you like your arrangement of classes and/or your homestay. Then, you can add/subtract class time, or change your living situation if need be. I say this, because Habla Ya requires 100% payment up front (read their policies), so it can be difficult to get a refund if you want to make changes. Granted, Habla Ya does need a fair amount of advanced notice to arrange the teachers schedules, so definitely communicate your wants/needs to them immediately. If anything, I think Habla Ya should change their payment policy, so it is easier for students to make changes (and get refunds), because it is inevitable that most students will do so.

- Regarding Habla Ya policies (refund policies in particular), I would recommend reading them carefully. Granted, my fellow students and I discovered many inconsistencies on their website. So, I recommend that all students ask questions and thoroughly understand their options for changing their class schedule or living arrangement. With that said, despite being a bit slow, Habla Ya was very helpful to me when I needed to make changes. 

- Regarding homestays, please be aware that they are all different. Some have much higher living standards than others. Also, in Boquete most homestays are relatively far from the school, which means you will need to take a taxi or walk for 30 minutes+ to most of them. In addition, note that you can do your laundry (wash and dry) in town for only $3 or $4, opposed to paying the host families $5 per load. I say this, because my family thought the $5 charge was silly, especially since it was easier and cheaper to do it elsewhere.

- If you are taking classes in Boquete, be aware that it can be quite hot there during the day. Thus, many of the classrooms are very warm, which makes it quite uncomfortable for learning. I believe the school is trying to address this, as air conditioning would be helpful. Fortunately, there is air conditioning in Bocas, and the classrooms are cool..

- In general there is a fair amount of English spoken in both Bouquete and Bocas. Please be aware of this if you are looking to be in an environment where there is little English outside of the classroom.

- I would recommend speaking up if your teachers are implementing lesson plans or activities that are not beneficial. The teachers were always receptive to student feedback, so I encourage you to give your input. It is not worth feeling frustrated by wasting time on activities that aren't helping.

- Note that some teachers speak English, and some don't. For me, it was helpful to have things translated at times, especially in the beginning. Though, over time, as I was more familiar with the Spanish language, I appreciated less English, because I knew my brain needed to hear Spanish only.

Regarding the teachers, I had a very good experience with all of them - Tamara and Alexis in Boquete, and Irasema and Christopher in Bocas. Each of them had a different teaching method, but they all had a positive impact on my learning, and I thank them for that. 

In terms of administrative issues, Julio, Sol, and Carlos were very helpful to me when I needed a refund for changing my living situation, and when I needed help with retrieving a package from the post office. 

Overall, I had good experience with Habla Ya, and I would recommend them. Plus, I met a great guy there that I'm now traveling with in South America....I never suspected to find love through Habla Ya, but anything is possible, especially when you take a risk a life! 

7  Thank PANAMA T
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
panamajoules, Owner at Habla Ya Spanish Courses & Ecotourism, responded to this reviewResponded December 30, 2012

Thanks for your very detailed feedback and advice to other students.
We'd just like to comment that every student is different, and what you found to be the best for you, doesn't necessarily mean it's the best for other students. So we encourage everyone to consider what's best for them.
Some students do benefit from group lessons more the private lessons. Everyone is different, so it's not the best to say one option is better than another. Some students do benefit from studying for 12, 16 or even more weeks in a row. Others, like you, need a break after 3 or 4 weeks. Many factors have to be taken into account: age, motivation, current level, previous language learning experience, personal learning style, etc.
We do have to make a note on some inaccurate information in your review such as the distance of home stays from the school. We currently work with more than 100 host families, and more than 50% of them are within a 10 minute walk to the school (we wouldn't call this being far away). To secure a host family within walking distance to the school, you just have to book in advance, specially during high season (January - March, June - August). On the other hand, Boquete is located in the mountains, at 1200 meters above sea level. The average temperature during the day is between 20 and 30 degrees Celsius, so it is not at all necessary to have air conditioning (of the 70 + hotels in Boquete, there are only 2 that have air conditioning).
Once again, thank you very much for providing detailed advice to the readers of this form, but we'd just like everyone to think what is the best for them for their own personal circumstances.

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed December 4, 2012

I've been taking classes by internet for about 6 months, and I have been very impressed with this school. I love my teacher and the school in general is very professional. I know they give their teachers training and support and it shows. Now that I am actually in Panama, I am looking forward to getting involved with their field trips and other activities. My experience here is already so much easier and more enriched because of the Spanish I know, and I'm looking forward to learning more so I can have even better conversations with my new friends and neighbors.

Thank Kristc99
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed November 22, 2012

In 2011, I took it upon myself to learn Spanish to help further my career. This resulted in me undertaking a two week course in Boquete with Habla Ya as a taster to see if I could learn the language. The two weeks went well and immediately on my return I secured a 3 month period of unpaid leave from my current employer.

During June, July and August 2012. I undertook 12 weeks of 1 on 1 tuition. Initially this was at 6hrs per day, which was good when going through the early levels however this left little time for homework and other activities, as the area around Boquete has amazing scenery and plenty of activities to keep you busy. For the later part I dropped down to 4hrs in part to help me with preparing for my DELE B1, which I am expecting the results very shortly.

During my stay, I had two main teachers. These were Jenni and Ismenia. Both teachers were excellent and although they both taught in different ways they were both able to bring the material alive. I can not praise them enough for their effort as I work in a very different environment and found that I fitted straight into the learning environment.

I really enjoyed my time in Boquete and am impressed by how much I picked up over the summer.

Thank you for the patience and the great time.

1  Thank Sweetman86
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed November 14, 2012

I have been studying at Habla Ya Boquete for 8 weeks and am very pleased with the school and instruction. My primary teacher has been Leidys Pitti who is wonderful. She is very patient and always corrects my grammar. The group class consists of reading articles, audios, language instruction, and conversation which is all tailored to your specific interests. For example, if you are a history buff they will give you historical articles to read and try to discuss or even debate historical topics with you. I personally began my classes at the B1 level (intermediate conversation) and am pleased with my progress. Because the school is so popular you unfortunately have ample opportunity to speak English with the other students, which is somewhat of a double edged sword, only because it somewhat hinders your progress. But the up side is that virtually all of the students are amazing and friendly people. Really my only complaint is that I wish there was more conversation, but if you are an outgoing person there is ample opportunity to talk with locals.

Thank ben m
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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