There’s no better way to practice Spanish than by interacting with the language in real-life situations. Envigado, a municipality just south of Medellín, is the perfect place to do just that — as Avalon from the Colombia Immersion Spanish school reports in this guest post.
Here, at Colombia Immersion, we’ve made a list of the six best activities for practicing Spanish in Envigado. For each, we’ve made a downloadable cheat-sheet so you have the vocabulary and phrases you need to start talking right away.
We also guarantee that these activities will give you a great day speaking and enjoying what the city has to offer.
1. Shop for exotic fruit at Plaza del Mercado
Spend an afternoon winding your way through the maze-like indoor market in Envigado’s Plaza de mercado, one block from Parque Envigado, the central plaza. It’s bursting with fruits and veggies you’ve never seen before, and also has surprising finds like terracotta donkeys and 4-foot long frozen catfish.
We recommend going with a goal/activity planned that will force yourself to ask questions to the shop vendors. One of our favourite activities is to search for Colombia’s exotic fruits, including pitaya, lulo, maracuyá, and uchuva.
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Another way to practice is to go shopping with a recipe in mind. It will get you searching for ingredients that may not be obvious or easy to find. One recipe to consider is for ingredients for a “menu-del-dia” type meal, which is lots of fun as it will get you to talking to multiple local vendors.
Address: Cl. 38 Sur #41-93B, Envigado, Antioquia
Hours: 8am – 6pm Monday through Sunday (closes early Sunday)
2. Study-binge at El Café de Otraparte
Sip some of Medellín’s best coffee while studying Spanish at El Café de Otraparte. It’s a sprawling outdoor café with plenty of drinks and food -ranging from fresh salads to typical Colombian empanadas – to fuel your an afternoon studying Spanish.
The best part? It’s also a museum and cultural centre, so you can also take advantage of a free yoga class, movie screening, or literary discussion with a bit of planning. Check out their website to see their cultural program for each month.
Address: Cl. 27 Sur #43a61, Envigado, Antioquia
Hours: 12pm-12pm Tues- Thurs 12pm-1am
3. Hunt for waterfalls in Parque El Salado
After a quick 15 minute bus ride up the hill from Parque Envigado, you’ll find yourself in the middle of Parque El Salado, a sprawling nature reserve stretching back into the mountains that will keep you hiking for hours.
To practice your Spanish, join a local hiking group, chat en route and practice your nature-related vocabulary (). You’ll definitely want to be able to say “that waterfall is enormous” once you see it. Make a list of words to learn in advance, and if you can, hike alongside a Spanish-speaker to ask them “¿qué es esto?”
How to get there: Take the bus from Calle 38 that has “Arenales” listed as one of it’s destinations. You’ll stay on the bus until the very end.
Arenales is a little community at the top of the road. There is a big map of the area right at the trailhead, but be sure to go with someone that knows the route as there are many side trails and no maps readily available. Safety tip: make sure to get back before dark.
4. Go Book Shopping in “Libros y Café”
You’ve never felt more welcome than in Libros y Café, a used bookshop in Envigado’s center. Adriana, the owner, is a painter and performs puppet shows, so you’ll see her paintings and other artistic touches throughout the space.
The shop offers affordable Spanish books on a variety of topics from business to fairytales to literature, and proceeds go towards the mission of promoting literacy for local children.
It’s also a great place to chat with locals; not only is the staff is friendly and helpful, but neighbours and friends gather to socialise on the couches amongst the stacks.
Address: Calle 39 Sur #43-71
Hours: 8am-8pm M-S
Website: Libros y Café
5. Work out in a free outdoor gym
Outdoor gyms can be spotted throughout the streets of Envigado’s residential neighbourhoods, and have everything you need for a solid workout: pull ups, ‘elliptical’ machine, arm exercises, and a few others. The best part? They’re free and the weather is usually great.
To practice your Spanish, start by learning the body parts and the names of exercises you’ll be doing. Before heading out, search online for the names of exercises you like doing in Spanish.
As you’re doing sets, narrate in your head the exercises you’re doing, and try to count your repeats in Spanish. It’s also helpful to learn some encouraging words so that you can tell yourself ¡Si se puede! as you power through your final squats.
Where: various locations in Envigado. Try starting at Cancha El Dorado (Carrera 42 Sur with Calle 4H Sur)
When: Most outdoor gyms are unrestricted and open 24/7. Recommended to go between 6am and 9pm
6. Play chess with “viejitos” in Parque Envigado
Under the shade of the cicada trees, men gather daily to play chess (in Spanish ajedrez) for hours on end. If you’re feeling atrevido, you are able to join in on the socialising. It’s a relaxing way to spend the morning sipping coffee, chatting, and working on your chess skills while speaking Spanish.
To make the most of your time there, make a list of vocabulary that you think you’ll need, and get it translated before arriving. Then, when it’s time to say checkmate, you’ll have the word ready to go.
Address: Parque Envigado, Cra. 42 #37S-60, Envigado, Antioquia
Recommended time: Morning/early afternoon on weekdays
About the author
In 2015 Avalon made the move from San Francisco to Medellín and now runs the marketing at Colombia Immersion. When she’s not writing about the Spanish language and places to eat in Medellín, you can often find her speaking the Spanish language while eating in Medellín.
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