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Language in Panama

Panama is a country located in Central America, with a rich cultural heritage and a diverse population. The official language in Panama is Spanish, but due to its history, there are several other languages spoken throughout the country. In this blog, we’ll take a closer look at the languages spoken in Panama and how they reflect the country’s unique cultural identity.


As previously mentioned, Spanish is the official language of Panama. The majority of the population of Panama speaks Spanish in business, government, and education. Panamanian Spanish has a few unique features that reflect the country’s history and culture. For example, you might hear several words borrowed from English, such as “parquear” (to park), “troca” (truck), and “bregar” (to work).

Indigenous Languages

Panama has a rich indigenous heritage, with several indigenous groups still living in the country today. There are seven recognized indigenous groups in Panama, each with their own language and culture. These groups include the Ngäbe, Buglé, Emberá, Wounaan, Kuna, Naso, and Bri Bri.

The Ngäbe and Buglé people are the largest indigenous groups in Panama and together comprise around 10% of the population. They speak Ngäbere and Buglere, respectively. The Emberá and Wounaan people live in the Darien region of Panama and speak Emberá and Wounaan. The Kuna people, who live primarily on the San Blas Islands, speak Kuna. The Naso people, who live in the Bocas del Toro region, speak Teribe or Naso. Lastly, the Bri Bri people live in the western region of Panama and speak Bri Bri.

African Languages

Another important part of Panama’s cultural heritage is its Afro-Panamanian population, descendants of enslaved peoples brought to the country during colonial times. Many Afro-Panamanians speak creole languages that evolved from a mix of African languages and Spanish. Two creole languages commonly spoken in Panama are Guari-Guari and Palenquero.

Guari-Guari is spoken primarily in the province of Bocas del Toro and is a mix of English, Spanish, and African languages. Palenquero, on the other hand, is spoken in the small town of San Basilio de Palenque and is a mix of Spanish and African languages.

panama tour hikePanamanian Slang

Panama, like many other countries, has its own unique slang words and phrases that are commonly used by locals. Here are some examples of Panamanian slang:

Chévere – This word means cool or awesome. It’s commonly used to describe something that’s good or enjoyable.

Ñangara – This word is used to describe someone who’s shady or suspicious. If someone seems untrustworthy or sketchy, you might say they’re ñangara.

Juega Vivo – This phrase literally means “play it alive”, but it’s used to describe someone who’s always looking for an advantage or trying to get ahead.

Pela el cable – This phrase means to pay attention or focus. If someone’s not paying attention, you might tell them to pelar el cable.

Chombón – This word is used to describe someone who’s clumsy or awkward. If someone’s always tripping or dropping things, you might say they’re chombón.

Plena – This word is used to describe a type of music that’s popular in Panama. It’s upbeat and often played at parties and festivals.

Jeva – This word is used to describe a girl or woman. It’s similar to the Spanish word “chica”.

These are just a few examples of the many slang words and phrases used in Panama. If you’re planning on visiting the country, it can be helpful to learn some of these terms so you can better understand and communicate with the locals.

panama mata oscuraLearning Spanish in Panama

Panama is a great place to learn Spanish, as it’s a Spanish-speaking country with plenty of language schools and immersion opportunities. Here are some tips on how to learn Spanish in Panama:

Attend a Language School – Panama has many language schools that specialize in teaching Spanish. These schools offer structured classes with experienced teachers and can provide a great foundation for learning the language. Some popular language schools in Panama include Casco Antiguo Spanish School, Spanish Panama, and Habla Ya Spanish School.

Practice with Locals – One of the best ways to improve your Spanish skills is to practice with native speakers. Panama has a friendly and welcoming culture, so don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation with locals. They may be happy to help you practice your Spanish and teach you some new words and phrases.

Immerse Yourself in the Language – Immersing yourself in the language is a great way to learn quickly. Try watching Spanish-language TV shows, listening to Spanish music, and reading Spanish books or newspapers. You can also join local groups or clubs.

Take a Homestay – Living with a local family is a great way to immerse yourself in the language and culture. AMIGOS offers homestay programs where you can stay with a local family and practice your Spanish with them.

Explore Panama – Panama is a beautiful country with many cultural and historical sites to explore. Visiting museums, art galleries, and other cultural attractions can help you learn more about the language and culture while practicing your Spanish.

Learning Spanish in Panama can be a fun and rewarding experience. By attending a language school, practicing with locals, immersing yourself in the language, taking a homestay, and exploring the country, you can improve your language skills and gain a deeper understanding of Panamanian culture. Understanding and celebrating the linguistic diversity of Panama is an important part of appreciating its unique cultural identity.

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