Do You Need to Speak Spanish to Live in Medellin?

TLDR? You don’t need to speak Spanish to live in Medellin!

Due to its temperate climate, and lower cost of living there are many reasons why people are deciding to live in Medellin. If you’re considering a move here, you may be wondering if you need to speak Spanish.

While knowing the local language is helpful, whether or not it’s a must is up for debate.

Read on to find out as we explore the answer to this question in more detail. Plus, we will give some helpful tips on how to get by without speaking Spanish.

Can You Live in Medellin Without Speaking Spanish?

Can You Live in Medellin Without Speaking Spanish?

The simple answer is yes, you can live in Medellin without speaking Spanish. However, just because you can doesn’t mean that it will be easy.

You will find that a majority of people that live in Medellin do not speak English. This can make everyday tasks, such as going to the grocery store or ordering food at a restaurant, more difficult.

There are some areas where English is more commonly spoken. For example, El Poblado is a well-known tourist area and home to many ex-pats. In addition, you can book a stay in the Laureles neighborhood.

In Laureles, you will get a taste of authentic Colombian culture while still being able to find many English speakers.

It is possible to live in Medellin without speaking Spanish, but we recommend you take time to learn the basics before making the move. Not only will this make your life easier, but it will also help you to better connect with the locals.

The basics include:

  • Greetings
  • Ordering food
  • Asking for directions
  • Paying for items

With a little bit of effort, you will be surprised at how quickly you can pick up the basics and even start speaking like a paisa. Don’t be discouraged if you make mistakes, everyone does! The important thing is that you are trying.

The nice part about Colombian people is that they are willing to help you learn. They understand that not everyone is going to be fluent in Spanish and are usually patient when it comes to helping you out.

Plus, you might find that they are eager to learn some English from you as well!

To help you get started, here is a list of resources that you can use to learn Spanish.

Spanish Classes

In Colombia, tourists can stay for up to 90 days without a visa. This makes it the perfect place to take some Spanish classes before making the move.

Not only will you be able to learn the basics, but you will also be able to get a feel for what life is like in Medellin. While you are there, make sure to check out some of the top attractions, such as Parque Botero and the Museo de Antioquia.

There are many different language schools to choose from, so take your time to find one that fits your needs. We recommend taking a look at what each school has to offer and reading reviews from past students.

5 Free Language Translators Apps

5 Free Language Translators Apps

Luckily, we live in the 21st century where technology can help us with just about anything- including learning a new language. Could you imagine moving to a new country back in the day without Google Maps or translation apps? What a nightmare!

There are many different language translator apps available that can help you to get by in Medellin without speaking Spanish. Plus, they are all free which is a bonus.

Let’s take a look at some of the most popular ones:

1. Google Translate

Google Translate
Free language translator apps can be a lifesaver when out and about.

Google Translate is available for both iPhone and Android users and offers translations in more than 100 different languages. The recent language count is 133 to be exact.

Not only can you use it to translate Spanish words and phrases, but you can also use it to have a conversation with someone in real-time. This is perfect for those times when you need help ordering food or asking for directions.

In addition, you can use the camera feature to translate menus, signs, and other written text. This will save a lot of stress when you are dining in Medellin!

If you don’t have great cell service, don’t worry. Google Translate can also work offline as long as you have downloaded the language packs in advance.

2. Microsoft Translator

Microsoft Translator

Similar to Google Translate, Microsoft Translator is also available for both iPhone and Android users. It offers translations in tons of languages- with Spanish being one of them.

A cool feature that Microsoft Translator has is the join conversation feature. This allows you to join a conversation that is already taking place in another language.

For example, if you do a tour in Medellin, you can ask the tour guide to join the conversation. As the guide speaks into the phone in Spanish, you will be able to hear the translation in real-time through your earphones.

3. iTranslate


This app is available for both iPhone and Android users and offers translations in quite a few different languages. In addition to Spanish, it also offers a dictionary and phrasebook for travelers.

One of the unique features of iTranslate is the fact that it offers a dialect filter. This allows you to choose between different Spanish dialects, such as Latin American or European Spanish.

The only downfall of iTranslate is its free version is limited. So if you need unlimited translations, you will need to upgrade to the premium version.

4. TextGrabber


If you are a solo traveler, then this app is a must-have. It is available for both iPhone and Android users and offers translations in multiple languages.

What sets TextGrabber apart from the other apps is its ability to translate text from pictures. For example, if you see a sign in Medellin that you don’t understand, you can take a picture of it and the app will translate it for you even if you are offline.

In addition, TextGrabber will make any address, email address, or URL clickable so you can easily access it.

5. Naver Papago Translate

Naver Papago Translate

Traveling with your kids? Naver Papago Translate is a great app for kids because it offers a kid learning mode. This mode is designed for kids aged 6-12 and makes learning a new language fun and interactive.

Papago has only 13 languages, but it is still a great app for kids learning Spanish. The “Papago Kids” uses picture cards to help kids learn new vocabulary words.

Who knows it may even help you learn a few words too!

Language Learning Apps

Language Learning Apps
Free language learning apps will help you learn the Spanish basics.

If you aren’t ready to take a Spanish class yet, you can try one of these language learning apps to help you get started.


This app is available for both iPhone and Android users and offers lessons in over 40 languages. The lessons are designed to be quick and easy so you can fit them into your busy schedule.

Duolingo is free to use, but you can also upgrade to Duolingo Plus for a small fee. This will give you an ad-free experience and unlock some premium features.


Babbel is another great language learning app that is available for both iPhone and Android users. It offers lessons in 14 different languages, including Spanish.

One of the unique features of Babbel is its focus on conversational skills. The lessons are designed to help you learn how to have a conversation in Spanish.

Plus learnings, Babbel users can sign up for lessons designed by native speakers. This is a great way for those who don’t have time to take a formal class to learn more about the language and culture.

Rosetta Stone

Rosetta Stone is one of the most popular language-learning programs and is available in over 24 languages. The program uses a unique approach to language learning that is designed to help you think in the new language.

A great feature of Rosetta Stone is its TruAccent speech-recognition software. This software will help you improve your pronunciation and will give you feedback on your progress.

Rosetta Stone has a free version that is limited, but you can sign up for a 3-day free trial of the full program. After the trial ends, you can choose to purchase a subscription.

Learning Spanish Takes Time

Learning a new language takes time and effort, but don’t let it discourage you from considering a move to Medellin. While it would be helpful to know some Spanish before you live in Medellin, it is not necessary.

There are many resources available to help you learn Spanish, and most people in Medellin are patient and understanding. So take your time, enjoy the process, and soon you’ll be speaking like a paisa!

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