Teaching English and practicing Spanish

My new whiteboard!

My new whiteboard! 

Soon after we moved to our current apartment, our neighbor invited me to join the English class she has set up with a few Panamanian women. It was so much fun! I speak more Spanish than she does, so I got to translate and practice my Spanish. We often ended the class with a game of bananagrams, with her and I as “coaches” for the students.

Well, my neighbor went back to the States several weeks ago.  She decided she wanted to travel light, so she parsed out her things to her friends. I was a major beneficiary, receiving a blender, lots of food storage bags, first aid things, some cans of solid white tuna (hard to find in Boquete), some baking supplies (my experiments with them weren’t all edible, definitely a topic worthy of its own post!) AND, my favorite thing of all — her teaching supplies! She left me her whiteboard and lots of materials, and I’ve tried to carry on without her – not easy to do, because she is a remarkable woman, high energy and lots of fun. Since she’s left, there’s been just two students instead of four or five, so the class is pretty easy-going. The one regular student is another neighbor, Ana, who speaks English a little better than I speak Spanish,  is learning Portuguese, and, at 38, is studying to get her driver’s license for the first time. (How’s that for impressive and ambitious?? Phew, I get exhausted just thinking about it!) We usually spend the first hour focusing on some aspect of grammar, and I try to stick to English, using Spanish only if absolutely necessary. The second hour is much more fluid – we speak what we can of the language that is new to us and get practice listening.

This week  was particularly fun! My friend Holly (who I “met” through blogging, before she moved to Boquete in June) joined us, and the three of us just talked, with whatever language we could come up with for our thoughts. And, it worked – communication was easy, with Spanish and English flowing both ways.

Mark and I will be traveling for a month, starting next week, and a few weeks later, Ana is returning to her home  in  Montevideo, Uruguay. We’ve decided that we should continue our conversations via Skype after she leaves.  I will still be taking lessons at Habla Ya in the fall (the results of the raffle will be announced in September, my fingers are still crossed), but practice with native speakers is essential when learning a new language, so this should be good for all of us. 🙂