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Daryl Ries of Keller Williams Panama, associate – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
House in Coronado, Panama – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingMy advice is that everyone who comes to Panama to live learns to speak some Spanish because Spanish is the language of Panama, but like most of the world, many people do speak English, especially in the city. As Panama becomes a cosmopolitan center it is necessary to be bilingual in business. You will find that all bankers, people in medical professions, and in most professions are dual language without question.
 
The thing is, while you can speak English fairly well in the city, when you go down the coast and into further regions of Panama, it’s best to know some Spanish. There will always be English spoken in any community you go to but you may not be really getting your message across as clearly as you think and it behooves you to know Spanish to explain yourself simply.
 
Also, for the purchase of what you may want or what you are looking for and basically as a way of being cordial and polite, you should know certain terms in Spanish. When you live in any country where English is not the primary language, learn that language at a level that allows you to communicate in at least a basic way.
 
(House in Coronado, Panama, pictured.)
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Chris Frochaux of Chris Frochaux - SERVMOR REALTY – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
The official language in Panama is Spanish and it's definitely the most often spoken. Do not expect a majority of people to speak, or understand, English. The affluent classes send their offspring to college in the U.S. and they return fully bi-lingual, but they represent a minority. (Expect the majority of medical doctors to speak perfect English). You probably can get by if you just speak English, as those who do will jump at the opportunity to act as translators - especially in the Metropolitan area - and this applies for most of the civilized world. which explains why many English-speaking people do not feel a huge motivation to learn any second language whatsoever.
 
Should you learn Spanish? For once thing, it's a perfect way to stay mentally fit (crosswords only go so far...). Also, it can be a lot of fun. Can you spell SOCKS? Then you already know a useful Spanish sentence: "Eso sí que es?" (What is this???). If you get a chance, take a look at my story (My life in Panama So Far...) to find out how I learned Spanish in three months, but it's not exactly typical, and as infomercials say: "results may vary". A little trick: rent a movie in Spanish, first with English subtitles, then with Spanish captions. Be prepared for a little challenge: whenever you're ready to practice your Spanish, Panamanians will reply in English! They will however appreciate your efforts to understand not only their language but also their culture. 
Ron Hunter of Finca Cazador – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Organic garden of Finca Cazador, near Volcan, Panama – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingIf you’re in Panama City, it’s easy to get by on just English. The more urban the area, the more English that is spoken. Panama is a Spanish-speaking country, so the formal language is Spanish. 
 
Being in Panama and not knowing Spanish is just like being in Arizona and having people working for me there who have been in the United States for 25 years but didn’t speak English. To me, that’s an atrocity. My Spanish isn’t great, but it’s certainly serviceable, and I get by pretty well. I don’t speak it correctly or conjugate perfectly, but it’s important that you speak the native language. 
 
In general, people here in Panama don’t really mind that you’re butchering their language. They are actually happy that you’re trying, and it’s a real door opener. They’ll tell you, “Wow, you speak Spanish, so you’re not a gringo.” 
 
The closest area for a large city where I live is David. David has an international airport, etc. I go to David for certain things. Invariably, if you go up from David, you’ll see Boquete on one side of the mountain, and Volcán on the other side . If you go further for another 25-30 minutes, you’ll reach the Costa Rican border. 
 
I went into a store in David, and since I’m obviously a gringo at 6’2” tall with white hair, the locals said, “Ah, you live in Boquete.” I told them I didn’t live in Boquete, and that not every gringo lives in Boquete. I told them, “I’m a Panamanian. I grow plantains and bananas, and I have pigs.” And they said, “Great! You’re not a foreigner. You’re one of us.” 
 
It makes a world of difference if you can stumble through some Spanish and break that stereotype in which everybody thinks that every person who lives in this area who’s white lives in a gated community in Boquete and has servants. I’m not that kind of person and I don’t want to be a part of that stereotype. That stereotype is really not well received here in Panama, and if you can get out of that stereotype and be one of the locals, your life will get so much easier. 
 
(Organic garden of Finca Cazador, near Volcan, Panama, pictured.)
Denise Patrick of Panama Roadrunner Secure Transport – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Buying from local street vendor in Coronado, Panama – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingYes, you can get by with just English but a little Spanish goes a long way.
 
It is always nicer to be able to offer polite greetings in Spanish and know a few simple questions.  Take a Spanish class!  It is a good way to meet other expats and make some new friends.
 
We do suggest learning as much as possible - it really makes life easier when trying to communicate with the locals.  Many locals have no English.
 
(Pictured: Buying from local street vendor in Coronado, Panama.  You can see the Mailbox Etc. sign in the background.)
Isha Edwards – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Gwen Ifill, a Panamanian of Barbadian descent who emigrated from Panama, – Best Places In The World To Retire – International Living
Yes, you can get by in Panama, even if you only speak English. I have a couple of friends who do not know Spanish and they do not have any plans of learning it, but they get by. The main language of Panama is, of course, Spanish. If you know the common words or phrases like, donde esta (where is), cuanto cuesta (how much), hola (hello), and others like it, then you can get by. 
 
(PBS co-anchor, Gwen Ifill, whose father was of Barbadian descent, and who emigrated from Panama, pictured.)
Michael A. Martinez of B & B Real Estate Nicaragua / Panama Real Estate Information – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Instituto Nacional de Panamá, National Institute of Panama – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingIn Panama City and in other parts of Panama, there are people who do not speak any English, so you have to learn Spanish. Sure you can get by if you don't speak any Spanish, but you will not enjoy Panama as you could if you did.
 
A lot of people assimilate the language, and some expats just find partners who do all the speaking for them. I know several people, men and women, who have partners who do all the business.
 
So yes, you can get by with just English, but it is always better, when you come to a country, especially if it is Spanish-speaking, to make an effort and try to learn the language. You will get help and they will want to learn English, too.
 
If you show a sense to learn Spanish, Panamanians are going to treat you well and they are going to try to communicate with you with what few English they may know.
 
(The National Institute of Panama, pictured.)
Bill Hamilton of Bill Hamilton – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
You definitely cannot get by just speaking English in Panama. People have this misconception that all people speak English in Panama City. That is absolute rubbish. It’s the other way around. You very rarely find people who speak English.
 
You need to know a really small amount of Spanish in order to get by, but the best way to do it is just to persevere and listen to other people. Unfortunately, Panamanian is not exactly the same as pure Spanish. We learned Spanish in Spain.
 
I’ll give you an example when I used to run a hotel in Panama City. One of the girls working there asked me in Spanish where the screwdriver was.
 
So I said it’s in the armario. Armario in Spain is "cupboard."
 
Over here in Panama, she said, “what’s that?”
 
So I said, “armario.”
 
So she goes over to it and says, “Oh, ‘closet.’”
 
Things like that. As another example, a tire for a car in Spanish in Spain is"neumático." Over here in Panama, it’s a "llanta." "Llanta" in Spain is a wheel hub.
Robert Adams of Retirement Wave – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Trying to get by in Panama by just speaking English is going to be more difficult. You need to speak some Spanish if you live here. It’s what you need just to get around and do things like going to the dry cleaners, movies and restaurants.
 
There are a number of inexpensive schools here that would provide you with the background. You don’t have to be fluent in Spanish. Many Panamanians do understand English but they are uncomfortable speaking it. If I say something in English, usually some of them understand what I said. It’s funny because Americans tend to not respond in Spanish because they are embarrassed about making mistakes. Panamanians do the same thing in English.
 
In Panama City, English is more widely spoken and accepted but out in the countryside not as much.  Overall, it’s not a major problem. I don’t know anybody who went back home because of the language problem. People moving here need to relax. They’re not in high school anymore. There’s no tension here, no tests. They can take informal classes and just pick up the words they need and will learn them just fine.   Usually, six months after people arrive who speak no Spanish, they can handle common situations successfully.
Gonzalo de la Guardia of Panasurance – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Here in Panama, you can definitely get by with just English but it would be with a lot of effort because not everybody speaks English. The number of people who know how to speak English will also depend on where you are. If you are in Panama City, around 1 out of 5 people speak English but when you go to the interior, you will find maybe just 1 out of 20 people who know how to speak English.
 
If you start speaking Spanish at the age of 65, you might find it difficult to be fluent in the language. But learning even just 20% to 30% of the language is more than enough to get by and enjoy Panama.
 
Panamanians really love it when they see expats who are trying to learn their language. They help out. They will try to get the words out of you, not to a point where you will be embarrassed, but all they want is for you to try. If you do not say the words correctly, that is fine. What matters to them is that you try.
kevin obrien of BarefootPanama – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
The most widely spoken language in Panama is Spanish, but you can get by with just English. It is easier to speak Spanish in other countries than it is here, so it is better to take some classes and learn to speak Spanish properly. You will make more friends if you try to speak Spanish.
Frank Kehanu – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
In regards to the question "Can I get by in Panama speaking English only?", the answer is Yes!  This is especially true if you stay close in and around venues which cater to welcomed foreigners such as large hotels, visitor centers, tourism companies and Canadian and American owned business such as restaurants and hostels without leaving out Elite Class hang outs.
 
Outside of that, you can always find some one to translate for you. Tour guides can be secured as translators and Ex-pats friends can help also. As a general rule you can almost always find someone to translate.  Otherwise is recommended to get a English to Spanish pocket dictionary or a Smart Phone App such as Google Translate (on account of a weak signal, may not be really effective in remote areas).
David Whittington of Tucan Golf Club and Resort – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
It’s a little more difficult, but you can get by in Panama if you only speak English.  If you’re in the countryside someplace where there wasn’t that much expat traffic, there would be very few people who spoke English.  But if you’re in any areas where there’s a lot of expats (and there’s lots of these areas in Panama), everybody in the service industry speaks English.  In all the malls in the major areas, some of the sales people may not speak English, but usually the managers or others in charge speak English.
 
In Boquete, there’s between 7,000 to 8,000 expats, so pretty much everyone in the service industries there spoke English.  In the other places I’ve been in Panama, all the lawyers I’ve met speak English.  Dentists speak English.  (The dentist I went to yesterday was born and raised in Panama, educated in Mexico, and his English was almost perfect.)  Most doctors in Panama speak English.
 
I don’t speak much Spanish—grade 1 level, maybe, and I haven’t had any problems, other than the embarrassment of not knowing the language.
Renate Jope of Panama Premium Real Estate – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account

The language of Panama is Spanish, and yes, some people speak English, but really most don't. A little bit of Spanish on your behalf goes a long way...and the locals appreciate you so much when you try. It's hard to just get by with just English.

 

In the Panama City area English amongst the 'educated' is more prevalent, but again a lot of people just don't speak English. I think this might change in the near future as more and more schools offer English from early on.


Patty of Patty's Casitas & Rudy's Tours – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account

The language most often spoken in Panama is Spanish...the more educated Panamanians speak English however for everyday life it would be useful to learn a little bit of Spanish to get by...growing up my parents & I have always learned the language of our host country...as a child it is an easy task but gets challenging when older however not to despair...just a few classes can take you a long way and put a smile on the local's face:-)

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