The combination of the most diverse ecosystem in South America, a unique culture resulting from indigenous tribes and colonization, and some of the most friendly and welcoming people make Colombia a special place to learn Spanish. Within the past few years, Colombia has gotten increasingly on the tourist track, as it is now safer than it has been in the past and tourists have started to pick up on the warmth of the people (and weather) and cultural excitement of salsa, fútbol, and the Latin cuisine.
The Spanish spoken in Colombia is often said to be the best Spanish in the world, as it is spoken with a neutral accent and clear, distinctive pronunciation. With Caribbean beaches, Amazonian jungles, and Andes mountain ranges, the landscape offers just as much variety as the Spanish language learning options.
There is no shortage of course options for studying Spanish in Colombia. With highly ranked universities in Bogota and Medellín, as well as language schools and homestay opportunities throughout the country, you will absolutely be able to find a language learning option that best fits your needs and interests.
Colombian cities such as Bogota, Cartagena, and Medellín are filled with Spanish language schools that offer a variety of courses differing in proficiency level, intensity, frequency, course length, and class size. Both private and group lessons are available at most language schools.
Schools typically keep classes sizes small, under 10 people, to ensure everyone gets individual attention from instructors and can participate in class discussions. One of the of the biggest benefits of language schools is that most of them include recreational and cultural activities to help students learn about Colombian culture in addition to language.
Most of Colombia's universities where you can study Spanish are located in Bogota, including National University and Los Andes University, two among the highest-ranked universities in Latin America. Universities in Bogota have plenty of course options and most universities now offer Spanish courses for foreign students. Universidad de EAFIT in Medellín is another standout option with a well-renowned language program.
At universities, students can study Spanish as complete beginners or be assigned a level depending on their ability, determined by an exam. Studying at a university provides the benefits of having access to a Colombian college campus and all its resources, as well as being able to take classes with Colombian students, providing more opportunities for cultural immersion and building relationships with locals.
Homestays with local families are common and easy to find throughout the country. Living with a family is a great way to learn Spanish in a practical and conversational way, or to supplement your classes at a university or language school. Your Colombian host family will likely be talkative with you and engage you in Spanish conversation often, so this is a great chance to practice and learn about Colombian family life and experience cultural immersion.
Why Learn Spanish in Colombia
Colombia in particular is a great location to study Spanish abroad because Colombians are known for the neutral, clear accent that makes their Spanish easier to understand for foreigners than other Spanish-speaking countries. Studying Spanish in Colombia will provide you with so many ways to practice your language skills in practical and conversational setting, as well as opportunities for cultural immersion.
Language schools typically have no required qualifications, other than being over 18 years of age. They are open to all levels, ages, and nationalities. Universities might have some stricter qualifications, such as you may need to be a student at an accredited international school in order to study for a semester or year at a Colombian university.
While there are an abundance of options when it comes to choosing your language program, the cities that are most common and highly recommended for studying Spanish are Bogota, Cartagena, and Medellin. These cities have distinct landscapes, climates, and characteristics, but they offer the most options of language schools and universities than elsewhere in Colombia. Programs in each of these cities will offer unique opportunities for cultural immersion, and even travel to other parts of the country.
Popular Locations to Learn Spanish in Colombia
The capital city of Bogota is Colombia's most metropolitan city, with more diversity in culture, food, and music than anywhere else in the country and attractions such as cultural events, museums, and theaters. Residents of Bogota tend to speak at a much slower pace than on the coast and have one of the clearest accents in the country, which is beneficial for learning the language.
Another popular destination is Cartagena, a picturesque, colonial town located on the Caribbean coast. With beautiful beaches and a warm, tropical climate, Cartagena is a popular tourist destination with many options for learning Spanish.
Lastly, Medellin is known for having an abundance of language schools as well as exceptionally friendly people and plenty of restaurants, bars, and cafes to keep you entertained.
Choosing a Spanish Learning Program in Colombia
When choosing a Spanish program in Colombia it is important to take into account how much time you would like to spend in the country. You will be able to find short-term courses at language schools that last only for a few weeks and start frequently, but university courses have a set timetable, may last for a whole university semester, and will not start as frequently.
You'll also want to decide which location in Colombia is best suited for you. If you are interested in studying at a university and really experiencing Colombian university culture, studying in Bogota will offer you the most options.
Cultural Immersion in Colombia
One of the greatest advantages of studying Spanish at a language school in Colombia is that your program will likely provide many opportunities to participate in cultural activities. These activities include cultural field trips to museums and shows, weekly "language exchange" social events at bars and cafes, salsa lessons, going to see fútbol games, coffee tastings, and opportunities to volunteer in the local community. You will also receive opportunities for cultural immersion if you are studying at a university, as you'll be studying alongside local Colombian students and get the chance to participate in any campus activities.
Living in Colombia is quite affordable for travelers coming from most U.S. and European cities. While it's affordable to live, your largest expense will probably be for language courses.
Average Spanish Language School Tuition in Colombia
Courses at language schools typically cost $10-$12 per hour or $175-$195 per week for around 20 hours a week. However, pricing goes down with the amount of courses you take, so if you purchase a multi-week package of courses, you will be paying less than if you take classes for a shorter period of time.
Scholarships for Learning Spanish in Colombia
If you are interested in studying Spanish at a university in Colombia, there are some options for applying for scholarships. The Boren Scholarship is a great option if you're interested in pursuing Spanish fluency as a graduate student. Another scholarship option is to apply though ICETEX, which grants scholarships for master's and doctorate studies. Most universities offer their own scholarships as well, so it's recommended to check scholarship options for the specific school you are interested in.
Cost of Living in Colombia
The cost of living in Colombia is quite affordable compared to living in most major US cities. A studio apartment in a Colombian city typically costs $330-$650 for monthly rent. Food is very affordable and you can get a decent lunch for $5 and a nice dinner for $10-$15 (and a beer for less than $1). Transportation is also affordable in Colombian cities, including taxis and monthly bus passes.
Visas & Other Relevant Information
Visas are not required for stays in Colombia that are 90 days or less. After the 90 day period, you may request an extension of up to an additional 90 days from the Colombian immigration authority. If you plan to stay longer than the extension, you will need to apply for a student or business visa. You will face a fine if you remain in Colombia longer than allowed without getting a visa, and you will not be able to leave Colombia until the fine is paid.