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Do They Speak English in Colombia?

Do They Speak English in Colombia

Key Takeaways

Official Language of ColombiaSpanish
Prevalence of EnglishModerate, especially in urban areas & tourist zones
English Proficiency LevelVaries; higher in cities & among younger generations
Reasons to Learn EnglishTourism, business, education
Advice for English TravelersLearn basic Spanish phrases; most Colombians appreciate the effort

The Linguistic Landscape of Colombia

Colombia, renowned for its rich history, biodiversity, and vibrant culture, has always been a melting pot of various languages and dialects. But, how prevalent is English in this South American nation?

Spanish: The Dominant Language

Spanish is the undisputed dominant language of Colombia. A descendant of the Latin brought by Spanish colonizers in the 16th century, it’s spoken by nearly 99% of the population. The country also boasts a diverse range of dialects and accents, influenced by its varied topography and the indigenous languages that have mingled with Spanish over the centuries.

Top Colombian CitiesLikelihood of Finding English Speakers
MedellínModerate to High
CartagenaHigh (especially in tourist zones)

Indigenous Languages

While Spanish is dominant, Colombia is home to 65 Amerindian languages. These are primarily spoken by the indigenous peoples in rural areas. Some of these languages, unfortunately, are endangered, but efforts are being made to preserve them.

The Rise of English in Colombia

Though Spanish is the official language, the importance and prevalence of English have been on the rise for several reasons:

  1. Tourism: Colombia has become a major tourist destination. Cities like Cartagena, Medellín, and Bogotá attract millions of English-speaking tourists each year.
  2. Business: Globalization has made English a pivotal language for international business.
  3. Education: The Colombian government and educational institutions have been pushing for bilingual education, placing emphasis on English.
Reasons for Colombians to Learn EnglishBenefits
TourismIncreased job opportunities in the tourism sector
International BusinessExpansion of business horizons
Higher EducationAccess to global universities & courses

Proficiency Levels

While there’s an increasing emphasis on English, proficiency levels vary:

  • Urban vs. Rural: Urban areas, especially in major cities, have a higher prevalence of English speakers.
  • Age: Younger generations, due to increased exposure and education, often have better English skills.
  • Education: Those with higher education, especially from urban areas, are more likely to speak English.

Tips for English-speaking Travelers

If you’re planning a trip to Colombia and wondering about the language dynamics, here are some pointers:

  • Learn Basic Spanish: While many in urban and tourist areas speak English, learning basic Spanish phrases can enhance your experience. Most Colombians appreciate the effort!
  • Use Translation Apps: These can be invaluable, especially in areas where English is less common.
  • Stay in Urban Areas for Better English Proficiency: Cities like Bogotá and Cartagena have a higher density of English speakers.
  • Patience is Key: Not everyone will speak fluent English, but Colombians are generally friendly and will try to help.


While English is not the dominant language in Colombia, its presence and importance are undeniably growing. Whether it’s for tourism, business, or education, the Colombian populace sees the value in learning and using the language. However, Spanish still remains at the heart of Colombian culture and communication. For travelers, a mix of both languages can provide a truly immersive and rewarding experience in this beautiful nation.