Colombia’s second largest city is smaller, more laid back and warmer than Bogota, and provides a great environment for perfecting your Spanish skills. Fewer long-term expats live in Medellin, but a steady stream of arrivals means that there is still a decent selection of Spanish schools and courses available in the city.
Bogota is Colombia’s capital and its largest city, making it a natural-enough base for students of Spanish and plenty of expats rave about how enjoyable life is in the city. That’s largely thanks to the fact that Bogota offers all the major trappings you’d expect of a big urban centre: in other words, a dizzying array of places to eat, shop, drink, dance and enjoy yourself.
As you settle into your time in Colombia, you’ll most likely find local cultural values and social customs to be at once familiar, and refreshingly different, from what you’re used to back home. Colombian culture contains plenty of contradictions, which means it’s difficult at first to get a coherent picture of what life in the country is really like. But then figuring all this out is part of what makes the place so enjoyable.
For many years, Colombia was not a destination that you’d really considered going to if you wanted to study Spanish. Not so anymore. Nowadays, more and more foreigners are making the trip here to perfect their language skills and the number of schools, institutes and private teachers has expanded dramatically. In other words, if you’re planning to go and study in Colombia you will not be short of people willing to teach you.
Medellin today has become something of a mecca for Spanish-language students, retirees, remote workers and digital nomads alike. The weather is great, locals friendly, nightlife lively and the prices still fairly competitive. The availability of decent internet, infrastructure and healthcare have all helped make living in the city a feasible option for people from all walks of life.
I often receive messages from readers of this blog, covering various aspects of studying Spanish in Colombia: from logistical questions about visas, costs and the availability of Spanish schools in the country; right through to queries about how to use specific bits of slang or idiomatic expressions. I’m publishing here a selection of a few recent questions I’ve received about learning and studying Spanish in Colombia.
In many ways, my choice of the name ‘Colombian Spanish’ for this blog was a bit silly. It’s difficult to talk about an entirely uniform sort of speech across the country when there are so many differences in language use between regions. Nowhere is this clearly than when it comes to the subject of accents. As you’ll soon discover, Colombians from one or other region of the country often pronounce the same words in sometimes very different ways.
Rarely do Spanish teachers embrace the philosophy of teaching their students to speak like a real native, instead of simply getting them to converse like some kind of living textbook. One of the few exceptions to this rule in Colombia is Violeta Bernal, a Medellín-based instructor, who runs an independent teaching outfit called “Social Spanish”.
One of the most difficult choices for anyone thinking about studying Spanish abroad is where to select as your base. Choose well, and you can find yourself in pleasant surroundings, with high quality tuition and plenty of opportunities to socialise and practice your new Spanish skills outside of class. Choose badly, and you might end up somewhere distinctly less enjoyable and not even progressing much with the language.
During my time in Colombia, I was frequently told by local friends and acquaintances that Colombian Spanish was the “best in the world”. This was invariably expressed as: “yo no sé, pero dicen que el español colombiano es el mejor del mundo” (“I don’t know myself, but they say that Colombian Spanish is the best in the world”) which led me to think this wasn’t just an opinion, but rather an objective fact.