Spanish is the official and the most widely spoken language in Panama. The introduction of Spanish in Panama came with the emergence of Spanish rule in the country. Prior to the emergence of Spanish in the country, the region was home to a number of various ethnicities. The interaction between the incoming Europeans and the indigenous peoples resulted in Mestizos – ethnic groups comprised of people of both European and Indigenous origins – which make up around 65% of Panama’s population.

There are various differences in pronunciation between the Spanish spoken in Panama and the Spanish used in other parts of the world. Although the Panamanian Spanish is largely similar to Spanish used in Spain in many ways, the Panamanian variant has some words and phrases that are unique to Panama. In the capital of the country, the Panama City, a blend of Spanish and English is used as slang by the younger population.

Around 93% of the population speak Spanish as their first language, while bilingual citizens who speak both Spanish and English comprise about 14% of the population. The number of residents who use the indigenous languages of Panama stand at approximately 7%, with the largest of the minority languages being Ngaberre.

Despite Panama’s small size, there are many indigenous languages native to the country. Among the indigenous languages is Ngobe-Bugle which consists of two ethnic groups, the Ngobe and Bugle. Another minority language is Buglere, also known as Murire. Buglere is comprised of two main dialects: Bogota and Sananero. Embera is another minority language used by inhabitants of the southeast region of Panama. Kuna is another indigenous language spoken by independent speakers who have their schools where both Kuna and Spanish are taught. The Teribe language is spoken mainly in northwestern Panama.

Some of the foreign languages spoken in Panama include English, with most citizens who can speak and/or understand English to varying degrees. Around 14% of the population use English. The English language is used in educational institutions all over Panama. Many residents of Panama working in international companies or business corporations speak English in addition to Spanish. The number of bilingual citizens who speak both Spanish and English makes up for about 14% of the total population of Panama.

Other foreign languages that can be heard in Panama include Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Hebrew, Arabic, and Eastern Yiddish. Arabic speakers in Panama comprise about 1% of the population, and the Chinese people who came to work on the Panama Canal introduced Hakka Chinese in the country.


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