Where to learn Spanish in Colombia?
Replies: 34 - Last Post: May 15, 2013 5:11 AM Last Post By: abz4ever
Nov 7, 2012 11:15 AM
15That's great then... I think you're completely on the right track, then... Yes, for short term (up to 6 months even a year), the ATM is the way to go...
Make sure to find a Canadian bank that reimburses you the high ATM fees charged by Colombian banks which can be hefty... Still, even if your bank does not reimburse third party ATM fees, ATM gives you the best overall conversion rate, and less nuisance with Colombian forms. The ATM here is called Cajero.
From the sound of it, and considering you have a lot of money saved (by European standards), you can stay in very good hotels in the safest areas in Colombia for around $100 CAD a night (with A/C if you visit the coast or other hot weather areas)... As a single female, I would recommend this option. There are more economical options, but I would prefer that you explore them with calm after you come to Colombia. You need to consider theft of your belongings at all times... Of course, you should never look or act like like a gringa (thieves look at us like papayas here), nor flash jewlery, blackberry or money... Take taxis initially, until you get a bit comfortable taking the bus or metro. I personally love the metro here. Taxis here ar very cheap. A short-long trip in town costs around $2.50 - 8 CAD.
Initially, you'd want to fly between cities... but later, as you get to know what is safe and what is not, you may enjoy taking the bus.
Some Colombians may treat you like a gringa, but just say you are Canadian and they let you off the hook.. ja ja ja ja
I still am getting an uneasy feeling about Cartagenabyheart's advice considering that she is new here... and every other post she makes is persistent advertising.
BTW, you'll be just fine with a tourist stamp for under 2 months... or student visa for longer visits.
Bonne Chance... Enjoy your trip planning and your visits to Colombia...
Nov 7, 2012 8:18 PM
16michaelkennedy - your posts are gold. If I was smarter and more eloquent, I would have written the same things. ;-)
I've stopped asking Colombians to slow down their speech ... there's just no point. My mother-in-law for instance after I asked her would say: "Que .... mas? Como ... te ... fue ... al .... gimnasio ...? After that would follow 10 sentences like an ametralladora where I'd be lucky to understand 50%. So, I now resort to just saying repitelo por fa and hope I get it on the third attempt.
Kjirstin: kudos on your plans to learn Spanish and visit Colombia ... best thing I ever did. After I had just started taking classes and before my first trip, someone told me "to have another language is to have another life". It's so true ... I didn't fully understand what he meant at the time, but I do now and hopefully you will too.
Today I'm fortunate to have a beautiful Colombian wife, a second family, and many treasured new friends both here in Canada and Colombia.
Nov 7, 2012 9:12 PM
17That's funny... Although I doubt three repetitions would be enough...
I loved your reference to M60... It is so true.. I will certainly steal it...
It doesn't matter who writes them as long as one of us does...
Considering that there is a very small percentage of norteamericanos living in Colombia, we really are a very exclusive club... we have so much in common... y muchas bendiciones...
Nov 8, 2012 6:45 PM
18Amen y gracias - bendiciones a ti tambien.
Sadly, I don't live in Colombia like you. I travelled to Colombia 11 times during a 3 year courtship with my wife, but she's been with me here in Canada for a year now. It's been interesting ... before our relationship was 99% in Spanish ... now it's 99% in English until she's fluent.
We'll be in Barranquilla for 3 weeks over Christmas ... can't wait ... cuidate ...
Nov 8, 2012 10:06 PM
19Kjirsten - if you decide on Medellin you can rent apartments by the month (week or day). Not cheap, as they are through foreigners, however the guy who runs it has a good reputation. His name is Andy and the website is apartments medellin or something like that - google will pull him up. They include wifi and services.
There is also an aparthotel building above park Lleres / Vizcaya. It includes wifi, cleaning and breakfast. When I used it (a long time ago) the nightly rate was around 130 k, however monthly rates were about 3,000,000. 35 sq metres approx with kitchen / TV etc. Could probably find the name if you were interested in that type of thing.
Nov 9, 2012 1:29 AM
20I try to find banks that have agreements between them because there are quite a few that won't charge a fee at all, but I'm not sure if that will be the case in Colombia. Worth a try. I'm sure I can find one that reimburses though.
Sounds like my best best is a hotel in each city until I get used to the area and then to another hotel or nice hostel. I'm going to try to negotiate a price for a long stay if I don't find private accommodation. A little back to my original question, does anyone recommend certain cities? I'm leaning towards Bogota and Medellin and I'm wondering which to do first. Kind of doubtful about Cartagena now after reading some more on the threads about it, people seem to either have a very good time or a very bad time. And too many tourists.
I'm also always careful to dress down and hide any money/electronics. I've backpacked Thailand and Cambodia without a problem but what I found was I got a lot of attention for having blonde hair and blue eyes. Will this be the case in Colombia? My friends from there went so far to say I'd be stupid to go alone, but they also left when it was much more dangerous, so I'm hoping they have a different view than how it is now. I even joked that I could dye my hair brown and they gave an irritated look saying "they will still see you from a mile away." Sooo I know they are just worried about me but I'm also hoping they aren't assuming I'm going to be kidnapped or something...
Whitey, I somewhat know what you mean. I've learned Dutch since living here (at least basic Dutch) but I don't completely feel like it's another life. The people are quite cold here, I think as are most nordic countries, so foreigners never really feel like they fit in (and I look just like they do!). I am very excited to go to a country where the people are as warm as the weather ;)
And yes, fortunate indeed, I really understand how different the women are. Here in Holland it's night and day.
Bickerss, that sounds great. I assumed I'd be spending more to get a nice place short term, so that's ok. I'll search him and check it out. As long as it's clean, safe and has wifi I think it would be good.
Nov 9, 2012 1:22 PM
21Hi Kjirstin, you are going to have a great time.
I came to Colombia last year with the goal to improve my Spanish. Before arriving I had planned to study in Medellin, but ended up studying in Bogota because a) I really enjoyed Bogota and b) I couldn't find a school to suit me in Medellin and c) disliked the attention I got in Medellin because it was hot enough for me to wear shorts yet all the Colombianas were wearing jeans!
I studied at International House in La Candelaria in Bogota. If you are booking for more than 4 weeks it is US$200 per week which I found very reasonable in comparison to other areas. A couple of girls at the school were also studying at the National University but said they learned more at International House.
I loved Bogota and found there to be many opportunities to get to know locals (La Villa bar in Zona Rosa has language exchange nights where travellers come and speak to locals) and also learn more about the city.
What I would recommend is that you break up the study with week or 2 week-long breaks to go travel. When you are learning at such a fast pace it can be difficult to keep up with everything, but if you take a week off to put it into practice somewhere else, you'll come back refreshed and ready to take in more. This way you can also escape to get some warm weather or beaches for a bit too!
And as the others above have described, costeno accents (from the coast) are more difficult to understand, but I wouldn't let accents put you off visiting certain places!
As for bank accounts, Citibank is good for not charging withdrawal fees at most banks here in Colombia (depending on the account).
Nov 9, 2012 2:59 PM
22"c) disliked the attention I got in Medellin because it was hot enough for me to wear shorts yet all the Colombianas were wearing jeans!"
Ay chica, please spare me!... What a bunch of pure malarkey...
Medellín has the absolute best weather and best looking women in the world... all year round!...
When "occasionally" it is a "little hot" temporarily (28-29 degrees celcius not 42), las paisitas wear shorts and miniskirts with a big heartwarming smiles... and they fit in them very well... and... they remain down to earth, sweet, cariñosas and approachable...
If Bogotá has a better weather or calor humano than Medellín... and if Australian women look better in their shorts than the Colombianas, then I am a Kangaroo from a land down under...
I would like to try some of whatever you're smoking, mujer...
Also, it seems you are pushing International House in La Candelaria in Bogota for US$200 a week a little too strong...
Nov 10, 2012 8:07 AM
23And the Bogota vs Medellin debate rages on! ;)
I think it will end up being one of those things that you have to decide for yourself. Maybe I won't worry too much about having an exact plan and just see which cities I like when I'm there myself.
I was also looking at the International House. It's the same price as Nueva Lengua but had less reviews so I was thinking of going to Nueva, but I might check out both when I'm there. At least the reviews I've read on both have been good.
Riverchick, La Villa bar sounds great, as does taking a week off every now and then. I didn't really think about how easy it might be to become burnt out from learning, so that's actually a great idea.
Michaelkennedy, I'm sure the Colombianas look great in the shorts but maybe some Colombian men do actually prefer some exotic looking Australians! Too each their own, some men often like what they don't normally have.
Is it a real problem for people to post on forums advertising schools? I've seen it now on every forum where someone states that they liked a certain school and the others jump on them for advertising. I obviously don't know much about how it is there yet but it's also possible that travelers have had a legitimately good experience with a certain school.
Nov 10, 2012 1:27 PM
24Kjirstin, for what it's worth ... if I was spending 4 months in Colombia to learn Spanish, I would pick Medellin (also, travel as much as you can of course).
Bogota has the best Spanish, but it is cold, rainy, polluted, very crowded with a lot of traffic congestion, and the people are colder than other parts of Colombia (however, in all fairness Bogotanos are still pretty nice and warm people comparatively to a lot of places around the world, including Ontario where I live).
I love Cartagena, but it is super hot and humid, and for most people a great place to go to see the historic and beautiful old city for a couple days, enjoy the beaches (which aren't that great - better if you take a quick boat trip to nearby islands), and then leave.
Medellin is a beautiful, modern city with many attractions, ideal weather (20-25C usually), great transportation system (above ground rail integrated with cable cars), beautifully located in a valley surrounded by mountains, with nice people who are known for being the most industrious and civic minded in Colombia. They have a bit of a sing-song accent, but I didn't really notice it that much.
There are plenty of women in Medellin with lighter hair, eyes, and skin ... however ... you are never going to "fit in" or be mistaken for paisita ... you will be spotted right away as a gringa by the way you walk, dress, facial expressions, etc, etc.
I have the same build as many Colombians, but even sitting down with a Colombian ball cap on my head, and jeans/shirt/shoes purchased in Colombia, next to my Colombian wife ... I am spotted as a gringo in literally one second before even opening my mouth.
Not that this is a bad thing ... being a gringo in Colombia is 95% great ... the people are generally very warm and welcoming as you know from the ones you've met.
Have a great time!
Nov 11, 2012 2:46 AM
25Whitey, Medellin does sound very nice, and considering I'm going alone it might be better to be in a city where it's easy to get to know the locals.
I never expected to be mistaken for a local... but it would be nice to fit in socially (after I get over the language barrier of course). I just mentioned Amsterdam because considering I look Dutch, speak the language and have been here for years there is no reason why I shouldn't "fit in" with the locals... locals as in women, I think men are friendly in every country. I just like how I've met Colombians here and became friends immediately, something that would never ever happen with a Dutch girl.
Anyway, as long as it's safe I don't mind being spotted as a gringa. As I've been told I think it's unavoidable!
Thanks again for the advice, always good to hear from a fellow Canadian ;)
Nov 11, 2012 12:51 PM
26Not sure why... I got along very well with Dutch girls and made many friends while visiting Amsterdam... I even learnt some Dutch before I visited... and that helped a lot... I kept repeating "achtentachtig grachten" lol
Most of the Dutch speak English and French enough to be undersood and with good accents... My Dutch girlfriend kept telling me that I spoke Dutch like a Turk... lol
Nov 11, 2012 11:37 PM
27Of course you did, you're a man! I get on very well with Dutch guys, most of my friends here are men. The women are another story completely.
And yes, it HAS to be easier to learn to speak Spanish in Colombia than Dutch in Holland. At first it's wonderful that everyone speaks English so perfectly and then it makes you crazy as soon as you try to learn. You speak Dutch here and they know right away you are foreign and switch to English.
Nothing makes them happier than someone trying though, Dutch is a pretty difficult language!
Like a Turk? I've never heard someone sound like that hahah
Nov 12, 2012 8:25 AM
28hey also have on mind Cali.. it is not so developed as the capital Bogota is.. but people is much more friendly that in the other two big cities.. plus the ocean is just one hour on car from us.. and we have lots of parties..
Nov 18, 2012 2:53 AM
Look up : http://radiolingua.com/cbs-step-1/ . This is a brilliant podcast series. Yes, it is geared to Spanish Spanish but he frequently refers to Latin American pronounciation. The podcasts themselves are free, but if you become a paid-up member, you get the notes. I didn't need the notes when I went through the first series (Coffee Break Spanish) because I'd already been learning for some time, but by the time I was half way through Show Time Spanish, I decided to pay for the notes and extra materials. I've now paid for the 3rd series, the magazine and it's great.
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