Who Should Be Learning Spanish in Cartagena?
1. Beach people. It’s the only major center that has a beach. It’s not Colombia’s most beautiful beach, but within a 2 hour bus ride you have some of the most beautiful beaches in the world.
2. Colonial city lovers. The old city of Cartagena is stunningly beautiful, and the setting for one of Colombia’s most famous novels, El Amor en Los Tiempos de Colera (Love in the Time of Cholera) by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. It’s one of the best kept colonial cities in the world, and truly spectacular within it’s old city walls.
3. Anyone who loves it hot. The city gets really hot.
4. People who like to be in a place with a lot of tourists. Cartagena is Colombia’s most visited city. This brings advantages and disadvantages. You can find a greater variety of entertainment and food options that foreigners enjoy, but you’ll also have to be diligent to use the Spanish that you’re learning.
5. Anyone who wants to eat seafood regularly. There’s good fish here, but it’s usually deep fried.
Who Shouldn’t Be Learning Spanish in Cartagena?
1. The accent here is far from neutral. It’s extremely difficult to understand, and is spoken at mach 1. There was a video I watched from a province in Canada that has a very fast and difficult to understand accent (Newfoundland.) I believe the Spanish here is the equivalent to Newfoundland English.
2. People on a budget should look elsewhere. This is the most expensive city in Colombia. If you’re looking for a cheap place to study, this is not the place to do it.
3. Anyone who gets heat stroke when it hits 29C should look elsewhere. Mid-day here is hot. People all walk on one side of the street to stay in the shade, and it’s still common practice to take a siesta.
So You’ve Chosen to Study Spanish in Cartagena. Now what?
I personally chose to take private lessons. I think it’s the best way to learn quickly. I’m sure a quick CouchSurfing post on the Cartagena message board will allow you to find a high quality instructor. You can arrange to meet them somewhere, or for them to come where you’ve made home. Otherwise, the top pick for a university in Cartagena is: Universidad Tecnologica de Bolivar. There are also many language institutes that you could go to, but from talking with fellow travellers / language learners many times the language institutes are more expensive and of varying quality. There definitely are quality ones, but do your research first. Plus, the Universities will most likely be able to get you a student visa, which allows you to stay in beautiful Colombia for longer than 6 months at a time.