Somebody Turn on The Lights

Yesterday evening was another evening with one of Dario’s classes. This one was at Universidad Latina. The class was to run from 6 PM until 7:30 PM. However, Panama provided a little excitement and at 7:20 a large part of David, including Universidad Latina, went black. No electricity.

We were on the third floor and throughout our classroom, cell phones came on to provide a small amount of light. Since it was close to the end of class, our class was just dismissed.

The halls had emergency lighting and that provided safety in exiting the building.

I was disappointed that I didn’t get to take my normal end of class photo. I was trying to think if there was anything that came up in my conversations with the students that I should pass on and there are a couple things.

First, I am always glad to see young Panamanians studying English because they want to and not because they have to. I took some Spanish in high school because I was told to and I took two years of German in college because it was needed for my mathematics major. I forgot all that I learned and wished I had been more motivated at that time of my life.

Every student I talked to yesterday was taking the class because they knew it would open doors for them. I had two students ask me for advice on what they could do to learn English better. My main answer to them was to use it. I said they should speak English every opportunity they had even if they didn’t feel comfortable with their level of ability.

I told them to talk with as many different people as they could, because you have to hear the different accents.

The other thing I told them was to read in English. Reading well written books and magazines in English helps. These same concepts work well for foreigners wanting to learn Spanish. Speak Spanish as often as you have the opportunity and read Spanish newspapers.

I had in interesting conversation with a young man in the last group. His brother works in the Bookmark in Dolega. I have met his brother in the past when I used to go to the Bookmark to visit Hal. I know I had his name recorded, but it must have been in the entry I had for Hal and it got removed when I removed Hal’s name. I miss Hal.

Out of the entire session, the following part is what I want my English readers to take away with them. I feel it is very important and I firmly believe it.

This young man spoke very good English. He told me that he felt that more of the people that moved to Panama needed to make the effort to learn Spanish. He said it was his opinion that accepting Panama’s language and culture was an indication of respect to Panama

He continued by saying when he was working and an American tried to speak in Spanish and needed help, he would switch to English to make it easier for them. But he also said, that he did not care to associate with the Americans that came here with an arrogant attitude and refused to try to learn basic Spanish.

He said he had experience with some foreigners that had come here and acted like they were better than Panamanians. I agree with him. I have run into the same type. What he may not understand is that they also offend many of the other Americans that have moved here too.

Take this to heart. Remember your actions are viewed by Panamanians and often your actions are the only perception they have of people who are not Panamanians. Your smiling at the cashier in the super market and saying, “Que tenga un buen diá” does make a difference. Saying “Gracias” when the waitress brings you your order is respectful.

If you have been in the waiting room of a doctor’s office or a hospital in Panama, you will notice that all Panamanians will say “Buenos días” or “Buenas tardes” as they enter. It is a sign of respect.

Well, that is my lecture for the day. I have another English session tonight and hope the lights stay on so I can capture my traditional photo.

Que tenga un buen diá, y’all.

10 thoughts on “Somebody Turn on The Lights

  1. Thank you. I learned something new about saying “Buenas días” or “Buenas tardes” when entering a room. I didn’t realize it is a sign of respect. Now I understand the occasional odd look on faces in a room when I didn’t say this when I entered the room.

  2. Great Post! We visited Pedasi this past February and found the Panamanians we met to be very warm and receptive to our poor Spanish, although my wife is much better than I. There was a family (3 generations) staying at the same Hostel we were and my wife bonded with their 6 year old daughter. She would speak Spanish and their daughter would speak English, they traded the meaning and prononciation of words. We were there during Carnival and as a result of that visit are planning on moving there in 2013. We will be visiting several cities in January, including David and Boquette, just to see some more of Panama before moving permanently in August when my wife retires from teaching. Maybe we could have drinks, lunch or something when we are nearby?

  3. Sunny, I am usually around. Enjoy your exploration of Panama.

    Michael, while I know to speak upon entering a room, it is easy to forget because it is not the custom in the US. I have to remind myself also.

  4. Since we’re talking about learning Spanish, note that “dia” is a masculine noun despite ending with an “a.” The correct greeting, therefore, is “Buenos dias,” not “Buenas dias.”

  5. Hi Bonnie. I made the change. Thank you. I will tell you though that mistakes in verb tense and noun gender is not all that important in making a good impression with Panamanians, unless your are writing a book in Spanish.

    They will be more interested in your effort to talk to them. Obviously, from a grammar standpoint, my Spanish is horrible.

    I don’t let that stop me from communicating with Panamanians. They take my errors in stride.

  6. Don:
    First: good to see you in Marcos office today.
    Second: On learning english, You can listen to radio broadcasts any language on the internet. I listen to Spanish radio news in the morning.
    Third: Politeness is very important, On one is offended when you are too polite. Take the time to say nice things to people as you meet them and thank them for their help when you leave even if you didn’t get exactly what you wanted. My Spanish is not very good, when I apologize for my bad Spanish 99% of the time the person struggling to figue out what I just said is relived and tells me some form of “no problem”. It is polite to let people off the hook when you can. That I do not speak Spanish very well is my problem not theirs.

  7. Hi Don Ray,
    The Bookmark — the young man is called Emilcar (Aguirre Escamilla). When he first started working at The Bookmark he barely spoke more than half a dozen words of English. I can’t believe his fluency after such a short time — perhaps three years?? (I wish I was half as fluent in Spanish after 10 years). He is a lovely, lovely young man.
    And yes, I too miss Hal, my Curmudgeonly Old Friend. Always one to start a really, really good argument. His passing was a loss to many in this little neck of the woods. But I can still hear him — he’s ranting about the devastation of flora and fauna caused by the building of the new road and saying “I told you so” at the cessation of work and a completion date that will probably not been seen in our lifetime.
    And yes again, to speak in Spanish makes Panamanians smile and want to help you.
    Newcomers — if they correct your Spanish, don’t take offense, they are just trying to help you learn. Wonderful, wonderful people.

  8. Not sure this is ‘tyopical’, but noticed that many Panamanians dont say Buenos Dias or Bueans Tardes….just “Buenas”, local? or typical…or just my bad hearing?

  9. It is said often. They may do it sometimes and not others. I don’t know what is the reason, but I find myself responding that way sometimes. In my case it may be because I am tired and don’t have the energy for the second word. 😉

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