Education / Panama

One of the biggest challenges with traveling to a foreign country, for many people, is the language barrier. And since I don’t know very much Spanish, I’m expecting to have less than perfect communication with the Panamanians.

Fortunately, I can rely on Jennifer a lot for getting us around, since she does speak Spanish, which she learned on her mission to the Canary Islands. In fact, in preparation for this trip, I had to call one hotel via Skype to confirm our reservation, and unfortunately, the man on the phone didn’t speak much English. Fortunately I knew how to get the point across that my wife speaks Spanish, and to hold while I got her. Jen came to my rescue and made the reservation.

I can’t wait until I can do that! I want to be able to know what’s going on when we’re there. I have always enjoyed learning languages, and I think Spanish is an important one to know, because it’s so widely used. Hopefully this trip will give me enough time and exposure to pick up some good skills.

I’ve always thought of Spanish as a fairly easy language (most latin based languages seem easy to me, compared to Japanese), but after getting into a little more in-depth study of verb conjugation, I realized that it certainly does have its complexity. Fortunately, there are many resources on-line for learning and practice.

I’ve found to be a good resource for quick translation, but haven’t looked much beyond it at this point. I do remember some website I found years ago that taught and quizzed you on basic Spanish in an entertaining and memorable way, but I can’t remember what it’s called. Does anyone know some other good free resources for learning Spanish?

Mostly what I’ve been doing is writing down words and sentences I want to learn, and reviewing them with a free flashcard program my dad told me about called Anki. It’s great for learning Japanese (which is what he primarily uses it for), but can also be used to learn Spanish, or any language (or any other thing you want to put on a flashcard, really). It has algorithms that display cards in orders based on how well you’ve learned them, to help you master them better. I like to practice with sentences rather than just words, so I get used to using them in context. I also have it synced up on my computer, the web, and my iPhone so I can start right where I left off no matter where I’m at.

But what about our kids?

While Emily and Marie certainly aren’t fluent in Spanish, they know a whole lot more of it than I did at their age, thanks to television shows like Dora the Explorer and Handy Manny. We’ve also been trying to speak Spanish a little bit in our home, and the girls often ask how to say certain words in Spanish (which we usually have to look up).

And every night during our evening devotional (where we sing, read scriptures, and a story, and pray before bed), we’ve been learning some hymns in Spanish. We first learned, “Families Can Be Together Forever.” and are now learning, “I Am a Child of God”. I was amazed at how quickly Emily picked it up – just about as fast as I did! Marie doesn’t always sing, but I think it’s sinking in.

We plan on keeping up this singing tradition on our trip (hopefully we won’t disturb people in the hotel room next door – we’ll sing softly), and maybe our kids will pick up some useful phrases themselves, or at least learn how to roll their “r”‘s. I couldn’t do that until I was 22! Seriously!

Brandon is a location independent entrepreneur, musician, worldschooling father, and the principal author of this blog. He's all about reaching his potential and enjoying life to the fullest in each moment.


  1. I’m super proud of you that you knew enough Spanish to tell the hotel worker that your wife knows Spanish, and that he should wait on the line while you went to get her! I’m glad you are so excited about learning Spanish too. You catch on very quickly and work hard at it, so I think you will be very pleased with your progress by the end of our time in Panama. :)

  2. Mi hijo está aprendiendo español.

    I know a few words/phrases in Spanish…. mostly remembered from 7th grade Spanish, but a few additional words I picked up from Seseme street and life interraction. Certainly not enough to carry on a conversation. But, ahving tried to learn both a little Spanish and Japanese over the years I can confirm that Spanish will be MUCH easier to pick up.

    And the girls are at a perfect age to learn another language. You’ll do great!

    I’ve thought at times I’d like to purchase Rosetta Stone software/lanugage learning program, but it’s pretty pricey and I haven’t done it ;)

  3. Hey, I just found the perfect site for learning Spanish – just what I was looking for. It explains verb conjugation simply, and even generates quizzes you can take to see how well you’re learning it. Check it out at (I’ve only used the Verb Drills so far)

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