Four Places To Practice Spanish In Medellin


This is a guest post by Roosh Vörek, author of A Dead Bat In Paraguay.

Doctors Office

As long as you don’t go to the upper-crust Clinica Las Vegas, chances are any doctor you visit is not going to speak English. If you have kept up with a steady diet of buñuelos, empanadas, super perros, palos de queso, and the mysterious street food that features cow entrails, there is a pretty good chance you’ll have to visit a gastroenterologist for problems with your digestive functioning. Sure you can just say, “Mi estomogo es malo,” but to get the best treatment you want to give very fine details about your bowel movements, including frequency, shape, color, and scent. This means you got to study up!

DAS Office

If you’re staying in Colombia for more than two months you’ll have to visit the DAS. Unfortunately more English is spoken by tribesman in the Brazilian Amazon than your friendly DAS office peon, so get ready to practice your Spanish under interrogation-like settings.

(Interestingly enough, one night I went to a bar in Parque Lleras and I turned around to see three workers from the DAS office talking in fluent English. It was extremely smooth with no perceptible accent or errors, but when I went to say hello a snarl appeared on their faces and they reverted back to a Spanish dialect I could not understand.)


There’s casas and there’s casas. I’m talking about the places where older gentleman callers visit for 30 or 60 minute intervals. Many gringos I’ve spoken to, especially American gringos, have told me that frequenting these casas is great for their Spanish, and is much more economical and fun than paying for a 38-hour block of lessons from EAFIT. This is a great option if you don’t mind that your language study to come with a slight risk of the clap.

Chicle Salesman

You paid how much for that package of cinnamon chicle? Dude, I got it from the same guy last week for 200 pesos cheaper. You got ripped all because you didn’t master the art of negotiation in Spanish. Since most chicle salesmen don’t speak English (for some reason), it’s essential you use the local language to get a killer deal. Sure 200 pesos doesn’t sound like a lot, but if you buy two packs a week like I do that really adds up over the course of a month. (I calculated a savings of a whole American dollar, something my frugal comrades staying in Centro can appreciate. You can buy a palo dequeso with that!)

Roosh Vörek is an American gringo living in Medellin, where he finished his travel memoir called A Dead Bat In Paraguay. Check out his website at

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  1. Acerca del comentario de casas

    This is really embarrassing to read. I find it offensive to read that American’s support the sex tourism with the added bonus of “practicing spanish”. This merely is making fun of the hardships those women face. I for one don’t find it funny, amusing, insightful, or witty. Just embarrassing and promoting ugly stereotypes for both extranjeros and Colombians. In fact the whole piece comes off as extranjeros can’t speak spanish and our only outlets are in uncomfortable situations or where we are consuming in the informal sector. What about genuine meaningful communication?

    • I, for one, had plenty of genuine meaningful communication with countless Colombians while living in Medellin. It’s hard not to when paisas are so friendly, curious, and generally approachable. 90% of the taxi rides I took ended up with me practicing my Spanish. Ok, maybe the conversations weren’t especially meaningful in that we didn’t debate philosophy, however that was due to my lack of fluency.

  2. It’s not a stereotype if it’s true. Sometimes reality is not a sterile Disney movie like you may prefer.

    “Genuine meaningful communication.” Do people in real life buy such utter nonsense when you bore them with it?

  3. La verdad? You are assuming that truth is your own ethnocentric, white, upper-class perspective. With that view point you tell us that everyone sees things the same. This is woefully untrue, and in my opinion quite arrogant.

  4. The best way to learn Spanish in Medellín is to not hang out in gringolandia (La Zona Rosa) and especially not with gringos that support sex tourism. Those gringos la zona rosa/parque lleras area give extranjeros a bad name (many clubs in the area will not allow white males to enter due to their reputation for looking for whores). It’s a shame and an embarrassment. Besides, I hate grillas.

    It all depends how bad one wants to learn. It’s very cliché but if there’s a will there’s a way.
    .-= Kevin Post´s last blog ..I leave tomorrow for Quindío & Tolima; nine beautiful days in the mountains of Central Colombia =-.

    • Yes, I have found memories of being denied access to B-Lounge on a Wednesday (ladies) night. Of course if I was with a woman instead of two other guys, there probably wouldn’t have been an issue.

  5. “something my frugal comrades staying in Centro can appreciate.”

    I happen to live in the Center and what’s wrong with that? Your comrades are thinking in Colombian pesos not American dollars nor Euros which is very smart.

    Props to pogopop.

  6. When I really want to practice my Spanish, I head down to Parque Bolivar. Some gringos don´t feel safe in El Centro but I think Parque Bolivar is one of Medellin´s great attractions and I spend quite a few Saturday afternoons strolling through the park and it is a great place t practice my Spanish, although I am nearly 100% fluent. Also, check out my new blog on Medelin Real Estate.
    .-= Medellin Colombia´s last blog ..Medellin Real Estate: Zone 1 =-.

    • I agree about Parque Bolivar being a great attraction in the city. I felt safe during the day, though the few times I walked around down there late at night were another story. Usually I did my best to catch a cab after leaving XYZ venue.