Finding Spanish Language Exchanges in Colombia

Great places to practice your Spanish with real people

Becoming fluent in Spanish, as we all know, requires more than just hitting the books. You have to get out there and start having proper conversations with real live people.

Even in a country where locals are as friendly as Colombia, getting into lengthy chats to practice your Spanish can be a difficult business, especially in the early stages of learning. While you can easily find plenty of opportunities for fleeting interactions (ordering food, say, or responding to the cashier’s questions in the supermarket), these will hardly tax your language skills.

To improve, you need to have much more in-depth conversations. Colombia’s language exchange events are an excellent way to do this. One reason is because, unlike your average Joe on the street, all those attending an exchange event will know what it’s like to learn a second language and so will be more patient as you slowly ‘umm’ and ‘ahh’ you way through Spanish.

They are also a great way to meet a whole bunch of new people, to get used to different accents and ways of speaking, and to potentially form friendships and relationships that’ll let you get right into Colombian life. I am, in short, a big fan.

Format of Colombian Language Exchanges

Most big cities and study destinations in Colombia have several language exchanges going on throughout the week. While the overall idea is always the same (that is, everyone attending should speak at least some Spanish and some English during the night), the format and style varies.

The main difference is between the structured and the unstructured sort. Structured exchanges have rules about which language can be spoken when, and often feature ice-breaking exercises, or set topics of conversation for discussion. Occasionally, they have teachers or language school representatives in attendance who oversee proceedings and correct some of the students’ mistakes.

At the other end of the spectrum are the wholly unstructured exchanges, often held in bars and restaurants, where it is entirely up to you to decide who you speak to, in what language and about what. The most informal of these resemble more of a club night / speed-dating event than a traditional language lesson. Sometimes hundreds of people gather in the same place for these events, to drink, chat and then party.

Both styles have their merits and choosing the best sort for you will be largely a matter of personal preference. But, whatever you do, make sure you get yourself to at least one of the below exchanges; you won’t find a better way to improve your Spanish.

[Details were correct at time of writing, but you’re advised to check event links before attending any exchanges as event info often changes. If any of the below is now out of date, or you’d like to add a new event, please leave a comment at the end of the article.]

Spanish / English Language Exchanges in Bogotá

As you might expect, Colombia’s capital city has a host of language exchange events throughout the week:

‘Gringo Tuesdays’ @ La Villa

Bogota’s largest multi-language exchange event, which sometimes holds up to several hundred attendees. It’s held in La Villa bar in the heart of the city’s nightlife district and is followed by an international party.

Day/Time: Every Tuesday. Language exchange 5pm-9pm; international party 9pm-3am.

Venue: La Villa, Carrera 14a #83-56, Bogota

Cost: No cover, but you’ll probably spend money on drinks.

Website

Blue Studies International – Spanish/English Language Meetup

A roughly bi-monthly event, held on Wednesday or Thursday nights, in central Bogota. Unlike ‘Gringo Tuesdays’, the language exchange is limited to English/Spanish (not say French/Spanish, Portuguese/Spanish etc.). It is a structured exchange split into three sections: 30 minutes of only English, 30 minutes of only Spanish and then a free section.

Day/Time: Varies, but generally Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Venue: Varies. Check link below for latest info.

Cost: Free.

Website

Language Routes – Conversation Club

An intimate, twice weekly, event linked to the Language Routes school in Bogota. The club is not just for English and Spanish (you can also practice Portuguese, French or German), and features participation by teachers from the school.

Day/Time: Wednesdays 6pm-7pm; Saturdays 2pm-3pm.

Venue: La Castaña, Calle 57 #5-17.

Cost: 8,000 COP.

Facebook page

Spanish / English Language Exchanges in Medellín

Plenty of foreigners are selecting Medellín as the place to perfect their Spanish skills. That helps explain why the number of language exchange events in the city has continued to expand. Here are some of the biggest:

Medellin English – Spanish Events

An active group organising traditional-style language exchange events in the Poblado district, as well as talks, hikes and other activities for those looking to meet people and practice their second language. The mid-week exchange is billed as the largest in town and usually has between 40-70 attendees.

Day/Time: The regular exchange is held Wednesdays at 6.30pm, but check the website below for details of additional events.

Venue: Bruno: Cocina y Copas. Carrera 35 # 10b – 33, 05 Medellín.

Cost: Free, but you’ll be expected to buy food/drinks.

Facebook page

Colombia Immersion – Language Exchange

Every Friday, the Colombia Immersion Spanish school hosts a language exchange from 6:30pm to 10:00pm at their school in Envigado. Locals and international folks wanting to practice Spanish or English get together to talk and enjoy language games in a social environment.

Day/Time: Fridays, 6.30pm-10pm.

Venue: Colombia Immersion, Carrera 40 #40 D Sur – 49, Envigado.

Cost: Free.

Website

Toucan Café – Spanish/English Exchange

Bi-weekly language exchanges run by the popular Toucan Spanish school. The event is held in the café linked to the school, with seated attendees practicing their Spanish/English in small groups for around 2 hours.

Day/Time: Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 6pm-8pm.

Venue: Toucan Café, Calle 10 #41-32, Medellín.

Cost: Free, but you’ll probably have to buy a drink.

Website

English Spanish Intercambio @ El Social

A much smaller and informal language exchange group that meets in the popular Colombian bar El Social, tucked away just behind Parque Lleras in Poblado.

Day/Time: Tuesdays, 7pm – 9pm.

Venue: 2nd floor, El Social, Carrera 35 # 8A – 8, Medellín

Cost: Free, but you’ll be expected to buy a drink.

Website

Co-aprender @ Siembra Coworking

Once a month, Siembra Coworking opens its doors (and its terrace) to Spanish and English students for a guided language exchange. Here, you’ll benefit from the presence of professional teachers for both of the target languages, who get the conversation going and provide feedback on any errors you might make.

Day/Time: 2nd Tuesday of each month, 6.30pm – 8pm.

Venue: Siembra Coworking, Calle 10 # 36 – 44, Oficina 302 Medellín

Cost: 15,000 COP.

Facebook page

Cali’s Language Exchanges

Colombia’s third city has two main places to go for Spanish/English exchanges:

Cool Mondays @ La Topa Tolondra

A long-standing, multi-language exchange held in the La Topa Tolondra bar. The linguistic part is followed by a more animated section of salsa dancing – all in the same venue.

Day/Time: Mondays from 6pm-9pm. Salsa from 9pm onwards.

Venue: La Topa Tolondra Nightclub, Calle 5 #13 – 27, Cali,

Cost: Free, but you’ll be expected to buy a drink.

Website

Blue Studies International – Spanish/English Language Meetup

A twice-weekly language exchange attended by roughly 10-30 people, featuring structured activities and ice-breaker exercises. All levels are welcome, but the organisers ask that you confirm your attendance in advance either via the Meetup group (see link below) or by emailing [email protected]

Day/Time: Wednesdays and Fridays from 6.30pm.

Venue: See link below.

Cost: 5,000 COP.

Website

Spanish/English Exchange in Cartagena

For those that can tear themselves away from the beach to go practice some Spanish, here’s the place to go:

Lingo Language Exchange @ El Arsenal

A small weekly meetup where attendees can practice a range of languages with native speakers. The event has no fixed format; simply arrive and start talking to people.

Day/Time: Thursdays from 9.30pm.

Venue: Bar El Arsenal, Calle 24 #8B-19, Cartagena.

Cost: Free, but you’ll have to buy a drink.

Website

One-on-One Exchanges in Colombia

Aside from these group exchanges, there is also always the option of organising a one-on-one language exchange for wherever you are in Colombia. If you are subscribed to a course with a language centre at a university, ask there first about how to do this, as many run their own programmes connecting students of various languages for additional practice.

Another option is to go online and organise the exchange from there. Via the free website Conversation Exchange, for instance, you can locate native speakers based in your part of Colombia and arrange to meet and practice the language in person. A popular site for organising free online language exchanges via Skype is on the ‘partners’ section of Italki.

With so many practice opportunities available, whatever your location and schedule, there’s no excuse not to get out there and start chatting!

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