Learn Spanish in Colombia: 4 Amazing Local Immersion Programs
If you want to learn Spanish in Colombia, you have a full range of course options.
Large university programs, small language school classes, private lessons and more are available for all levels of Spanish learners. Spanish courses in Colombia range in length from a week to a semester to a year at a time.
Learners can choose programs in the capital city of Bogotá, popular destinations like Cartagena and Medellín, or places more off the tourist track.
Studying Spanish in a Spanish-speaking country can help you take major steps toward fluency.
Here are four language (and culture!) courses in Colombia, notable features of the Colombian Spanish dialect and some things to know before you go.
- 4 Immersion Programs to Learn Spanish in Colombia
- Notable Features of Colombian Spanish
- How to Prepare to Learn Spanish in Colombia
4 Immersion Programs to Learn Spanish in Colombia
The great thing about studying in Colombia is that there’s a range of methods available.
Longer university programs can see you walking away with some solid skills and a certificate, and the teachers are more rigorously vetted and qualified, though they tend to cost a little more. If you want to stay in Colombia for more than six months, however, studying this way can also help with a visa.
On the other hand, shorter private language classes and tutoring tend to be more flexible and embody more opportunities for tourism and fun. Take a look at these four great programs and see which is best for you.
1. Universidad Santo Tomás
Duration: Four months (60 hours)
Price: Roughly US$208
The first university in Colombia, Universidad Santo Tomás offers language courses focused on preparing students for employment, academia and social situations in Spanish. Current levels offered are an A1 and A2 course, and a course for B1 learners.
Courses follow semester enrollment dates, so pay careful attention to the application due date and start date if you’re interested in attending Universidad Santo Tomás. They also have exchange programs with various universities worldwide.
Though the school has campuses all over Colombia, the Spanish language courses are held in Bogotá, Colombia’s capital. In fact, people who study Spanish in Bogotá often continue on to participate in more long-term study programs through universities.
A cultural and historical place, Bogotá also features the clearest accent of the various regions of Colombia—helpful for Spanish beginners. The third highest capital city in the world (at about 8,675 feet), Bogotá has a fresh, cool climate. With a population of 8 million, the city is packed with museums, interesting sites and shopping malls as well.
2. Toucan Spanish School
Location: Medellín, Bogotá, Cartagena
Duration: Classes available by week
Price: US$100-690 per week
Toucan Spanish School from Study Spanish Colombia offers intensive language classes of 20 hours per week. These in-country courses include daily cultural and social activities.
They also offer more flexible options, including private classes of 10 to 20 hours per week or classes over Skype—though these are only a fraction cheaper than the ones on the ground in Colombia. Prices depend upon class type and number of hours.
Toucan Spanish School has a number of schools around Colombia, and its Medellín branch is particularly popular, boasting 14 classrooms and modern facilities like air conditioning and projectors.
The city of Medellín also does its fair share to draw visitors and students—it’s one of the most popular cities to study Spanish in. It’s a dense city with plenty of city sights and availability of day trips to lakes, colorful towns and Colombia’s coffee region.
Medellín is comfortably warm, year round, and because lots of people go there for tourism or study, there are plenty of accommodation options and a vibrant nightlife.
3. Centro Catalina
Location: Cartagena, Medellín
Duration: One week to one year
Price: US$180-610 per week
The Centro Catalina Spanish School specializes in combining learning with other excursions and activities like water sports, ecotourism, cultural visits and Colombian dance. As for the courses themselves, there’s a wide variety of options.
Learners can choose between standard courses (mornings), intensive courses (mornings and afternoons), private tutoring (afternoons) and tailored classes for families and other unique situations. They even offer preparation for the DELE (Diplomas of Spanish as a Foreign Language) exam.
Prices increase the more private lessons you attend per week. But Centro Catalina can also help learners figure out accommodation with host families or in apartments. The school has a location in Medellín, though the main campus is in Cartagena, a beautiful city right off the Caribbean.
Cartagena has great weather—if you like it hot and humid. Located on the coast, it does attract a lot of tourists, meaning that the city has all the necessary facilities, but also a good portion of locals speak English. For history lovers, Cartagena’s colonial walled city and fortress are a World Heritage Site.
4. Spanish Adventure
Location: San Carlos
Duration: One week (can book multiple)
Intrepid Spanish learners can get off the tourist trail and away from the big cities with a language program via Spanish Adventure. Their project-based, communicative courses are based on experiential learning.
Courses are 14 or 18 hours per week and include elective workshops, small-group instruction, opportunities to interact with locals and, of course, adventure excursions around the area. Dorm accommodation is included in the price, as well as breakfast and lunch every day you are there.
Located in San Carlos, Antioquia (a few hours east of Medellín), Spanish Adventure is in the mountainous region of Colombia, though it retains a tropical climate. San Carlos is actually the hydro-electric capital of the country, with numerous dams and bodies of water.
That means waterfalls, hiking trails and ponds abound. Tourism is an important part of the local economy, and there are many locals willing to help language students practice their conversational skills outside the classroom.
Notable Features of Colombian Spanish
Though the Colombian accent varies between the coast and the center of the country, and between rural areas and cities, it’s generally among the easiest accents for Spanish learners to understand.
As a bonus, once you’re away from the tourist hotspots, most Colombians don’t speak English, so your Spanish skills will be put to the test. And, unless they’re hard at work, they’re usually really happy to have a chat.
Latin America rocks creative slang, and Colombia is no exception. While in Colombia’s close sister country of Venezuela, a mate or friend is a pana, short for panaderia (bread shop), but in Colombia a pal is mi llave or mi llavero (my key, or my key chain).
Your group of friends, meanwhile, is your parche (patch). On the romantic side of things, Colombians say they were “swallowed” (estoy tragada) to say they’re head over heels for someone.
And in both Venezuela and Colombia, you’ll hear the word vaina all the time. It’s a substitute word for when people can’t be bothered to express themselves more clearly (sort of like “thing” in English).
So they’ll say, “Pass me la vaina,” and “How’s la vaina?” and “¿Qué es esa vaina?” (What’s going on?) or even just “vaina” to show a strong emotion.
How to Prepare to Learn Spanish in Colombia
Before you hop on a plane, it’s beneficial to take at least a few minutes to determine your Colombian adventure plans and formulate a clear picture of what you’re heading towards.
If you have the funds, Colombia is a great launching pad for a long trip around the continent.
It’s not uncommon to start there, pick up some decent Spanish, then catch buses north through Central America and up to Mexico, or south along the western coast to Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Chile, then perhaps on to Argentina or Brazil.
As an airport hub, Colombia can also be one of the cheaper countries to fly to—likely a nice bonus for anyone hoping to study Spanish abroad!
Here are some general facts about the country to know before you go:
- Climate: Because Colombia is located close to the equator, the climate is mostly warm and tropical, though it gets cooler as you move into the center and up the Andes to cities like Bogotá.
Temperatures tend to be fairly constant year round, though they’re a little cooler around December to March.
- Culture: Colombia is a very culturally rich country, with indigenous, African and Spanish heritage. Catholicism is dominant, but carnivals, which tend to incorporate all three ethnic elements, are popular.
Note that tipping isn’t common in Colombia.
- Cost of living: When studying in Colombia, monthly expenses are pretty low, though they’ll obviously vary depending on your lifestyle. If you cook a lot, you’ll only need about 100 to 250 USD per month for groceries.
- Accommodation: Tourist cities are full of hostels that include breakfast, internet and often leisure, tourist or social activities. There’s also a full range of hotels, and it’s not too difficult to rent an apartment for longer stays.
A two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment could start as low as 325 USD per month, and a hostel dorm bed is typically around 15 USD a night.
- Transport: In most cities, and even between cities, you’ll get around by bus. Buses are very cheap, and the interstate ones are often huge and comfortable. In this way, you can check out other cities nearby for just 10 to 30 USD. For long distances, a plane can be almost as cheap as going by bus!
To really prepare for your study abroad experience, it’s a good idea to review your Spanish skills ahead of time—or give yourself a foundation, if you don’t have one yet.
Using apps and online programs can help you level up your language skills before you travel to Colombia. Here are some resources that can help you prepare for your trip:
- Duolingo: A well-known app you can use to practice vocabulary and basic grammar by completing various exercises. Duolingo gamifies learning to keep you engaged while you progress through various topics and themes.
- FluentU: This program (and app) immerses you in Spanish language and culture via authentic Spanish videos with interactive subtitles. You can create flashcards from words in the videos and practice your vocab with quizzes tailored to your learning experience.
- Busuu: This app focuses on listening and speaking skills. Lessons cover various grammar aspects and vocabulary topics, and there are a range of skill levels available. You can even get feedback from other users and native speakers.
So mi llave, do you want to learn Spanish in Colombia?
Then it’s time to head over to this amazing country and get to really know it, while improving your Spanish at the same time!