Tourist destinations make a great effort to connect with their visitors. One way they do this is by speaking the language of the newcomers, and offering their own, along with local information, historic facts and new or upcoming milestones.

On a recent trip to Panama, we were met with new and interesting uses of the English language as part of everyday Spanish conversations.

We heard workiar instead of trabajar, chiliar, a version of “chilling”, cuara meaning “quarter” or the 25 cents coin, oneway instead of un solo sentido, and of course, the urban legend behind Arraijan, a nearby district, that is said to be named for the directions to its physical location “on the right hand.”

We were also pleased to find a local bilingual periodical for the Casco Antiguo visitors. It’s findings like this what makes traveling to a different country exciting for kids and adults.


Guiding adults must be on the look out for unexpected resources. It’s no mystery that the English language has found its way into many Latin American countries, specially with those with which English speaking natives have had an economic or political relationship. Globalization took care of the rest. The English language is peppered on the products we use, the names of the stores we visit, the food and clothes we buy, here, there and everywhere. It’s found on public signs and sometimes hidden in plain view. So, why not make a game out of these unexpected bilingual discoveries? 

Pay Attention

As adults we sometimes miss valuable opportunities to make connections with language. We want to stick to a schedule and move quickly to avoid having to “deal” with bored or tired children. More and more we rest on the crutch of our portable devices to keep our kids entertain. But, traveling is an opportunity to engage with the world and use our technology to expand on that connection and knowledge. The first step is to slow down and pay attention. Reach for your tablet/smart phone to guide your unexpected discoveries and record the new words and meanings you catch along the way. Give your kids a challenge!



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