Your Spanish is solid.
You can hold your own in a conversation, you’re more than familiar with the Spanish-speaking world, and perhaps you’re even ready to prove you can pass the DELE (Diploma de Español como Lengua Extranjera).
You’re ready for the next big step up in your Spanish studies—the leap to fluency and professional-tier Spanish.
Of the 12 books on this list, 11 are completely written in Spanish. With publishing bodies such as Instituto Cervantes and the Real Academia Española overlooking some of these resources, quite a few books on this list were written for both native and non-native Spanish speakers alike.
Regardless of where you fall on the advanced speaker spectrum—from upper-intermediate student to native Spanish-speaking linguist—there’s a resource here for you.
- Grammar Review and Practice
- Grammar and Vocabulary Resources
- DELE Preparation
Grammar Review and Practice
All of the books in the Grammar Review and Practice section contain exercises to review and perfect one’s usage of Spanish grammar. Some of these resources use a CD-ROM, smartphone application or website as a supplement to book itself. These are best for students or professionals who wish to perfect their command of intermediate to upper-advanced Spanish grammar. Some resources are part of a series with resources for lower levels of Spanish.
1. “The Ultimate Spanish Review and Practice”
Geared towards intermediate and advanced students, this workbook provides a comprehensive review of the Spanish language for English-speaking learners. This book is designed around grammar and vocabulary review for practical, everyday usage, with an emphasis on conversational exchanges. The various topics discussed among its 28 chapters consist of various grammatical concepts as well as idiomatic uses and common errors.
I personally used the first edition of this book, which was released in 1999 before the advent of the smartphone. The currently available second edition is available with a CD-ROM, and the upcoming “premium third edition” will include the Ultimate App available for both Android and iOS (release date, September 4, 2015). Through pre- and post-tests, audio exercises and a record/replay function to compare your pronunciation to native speakers, “The Ultimate Spanish Review and Practice” is fully equipped to review and improve every aspect of one’s Spanish proficiency skills. It’s ideal for self-study or as a supplement to formal lessons.
2. “Uso de la grámatica española”
This series published by Edelsa is available in 3 levels: elemental, intermedio and avanzado. Unlike the other books on this list, this book is completely focused on grammar. No texts, articles, cultural notes or vocabulary lessons grace the pages of this resource.
Ideal for self-study, this may be ideal for those who want to focus their grammar without additional tidbits as a distraction. This minimalist resource includes an explanation of each grammar point, as well as charts, tables and numerous exercises. The advanced book contains lessons on 22 grammar topics, while the beginner and intermediate books contain 35 and 31, respectively. Answers are sold separately.
3. “Nuevo Prisma”
With books available for both self-study and classroom settings alike, the nuevo Prisma series by Edinumen was designed with a strong focus on improving communication skills. Each book has been designed according to the Plan Curricular del Instituto Cervantes (PCIC), which in turn is structured to align with the standards set by the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.
This resource is available for all levels of Spanish. The self-study exercise book is focused on grammar exercises and preparation for the DELE. The classroom book is focused on integrating grammar and vocabulary into everyday situations, with a strong emphasis on conversation both inside and outside the classroom. More activities and resources are available online and with an optional CD-ROM. You could also look on Amazon for the teacher’s book for additional features.
4. “Curso de perfeccionamiento: Hablar, escribir y pensar en español”
This workbook is designed for upper-intermediate to advanced learners who have reached a plateau with their grammar studies. Great for both self-study and classroom use, this resource helps students perfect the rules and idiosyncrasies of grammar that are typically passed over in beginning and intermediate level classes.
Through meticulous explanations (e.g. several chapters are dedicated to the subjunctive), comprehensive written exercises yet relatively brief thematic sections, students are given the opportunity to thoroughly grasp advanced grammar and apply their newly-learned language to complex, real-world situations.
A variety of texts are used throughout the book, many of which were taken from Spanish-language newspapers and books. Numerous grammar and vocabulary exercises are provided, both as stand-alone language review and as supplements to the aforementioned texts and articles. Answer book sold separately.
5. “Dominio: Curso de perfeccionamiento”
Created by Edelsa with advanced and upper-advanced students in mind (possibly heritage Spanish speakers as well), this resource is focused on mastering the Spanish language. Skills in reading, listening, writing and speaking are developed equally, and in a variety of everyday situations and language contexts as well.
Designed according to the levels of reference provided by the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages and Instituto Cervantes, this is an excellent resource for classroom use, self study and for those who are preparing for the C2 level of the DELE. Among other themes, students are taught to perfect various language nuances, expand their lexicon through less commonly-used vocabulary, synonyms and antonyms, and review idiosyncrasies in written and spoken Spanish.
Each of its ten units is comprised of comprehensive activities that address every aspect of the language. Through a multitude of reading, writing, listening, speaking, grammar, and vocabulary exercises, learners perfect their skills through literary extracts, texts and essays from Spain and Latin America. The student book contains an audio CD. Answer book sold separately.
Grammar and Vocabulary Resources
Most of the Grammar and Vocabulary Resources do not contain additional workbook exercises. Generally speaking, they are meant to be guides of the norms and idiosyncrasies of written and spoken Spanish in both Europe and Latin America. These books are appropriate for native and non-native Spanish speakers alike, particularly those whose careers demand a level of linguistic precision that isn’t imperative in causal, everyday situations.
6. “Diccionario práctico de gramática: 800 fichas de uso correcto del español”
This resource published by Edelsa lists alphabetically lists 800 grammar concepts regarding los operadores del discurso más frecuentes e importantes del español, as the author succinctly states. Although this resource is geared towards advanced students, this would be a welcome resource in many ELE classrooms for both teachers and students alike.
Each grammar point contains an in depth explanation of what the word or concept means and how to accurately utilize it. A description of the grammar point and two example sentences with the word being used in context start each section. Then the grammatical significance (e.g. locución adverbial de hipótesis) and syntactical rules (e.g. se utiliza con un verbo en Indicativo) are explained. When necessary, the use and register of the phrase is given. This is especially so when a word is culto, or when a phrase is equivalent to a more commonly used operator.
The final portion of many grammar points includes a helpful section which compares said phrase to other similar or contrasting phrases. An exercise book with separate answer key can also be purchased on Amazon.
7. “Las 500 dudas más frecuentes del español”
Published by Instituto Cervantes, this book focuses on the most common questions that arise among (generally native) Spanish speakers. Each of the 500 dudas is accompanied by a detailed answer addressing every aspect of that particular concern. Not only is the answer to each question explained is great detail, but the authors also describe situations in which said language point may be used, as well as why a particular concern is correct, incorrect or correct, depending on the context.
As the authors seem to understand that linguistic analyses may not suit everyone, correct and incorrect sentences are given in each entry. This allows readers to directly compare and contrast how a particular thought is expressed, especially as the incorrect example is typically a common mistake made by native speakers. When appropriate, the preferred vs not-so-ideal ways to write a sentence are also provided.
8. “El buen uso del español”
Published by the Real Academia Española and the Asociación de Academias de la Lengua Española, this is a comprehensive, yet brief, guide to the Spanish language. As quoted from the Introduction chapter of the book:
Está destinado a la inmensa mayoría, a todos los hablantes que experimentan dudas e incertidumbres ortográficas o gramaticales ante la lengua. Está pensado y organizado para que el acceso a la información sea rápido, el tiempo de consulta sea breve y la explicación resulte intuitiva, clara y suficiente.
With 224 blocks throughout 500+ pages, it’s a quick guide of virtually every aspect of the Spanish language from phonemes to comma usage to capitalization to interrogatives con y sin tilde to perífasis verbales and locuciones.
9. “Manual de la nueva gramática de la lengua española”
This book, also published by the Real Academia Española, is an academically-oriented resource developed to review the complexities of Spanish grammar. This 1000-page linguistic tome is geared towards proficient speakers with a passion for grammar, or need for linguistic precision in their Spanish usage.
It isn’t meant to be used as a learner’s guide, but rather a comprehensive, technical, systematic grammar manual for language professionals and aficionados. Those of us who are language teachers, translators, writers or linguists who speak European or Latin American Spanish may appreciate the linguistic depth of this book.
10. “Hablar por los codos: Frases para un español cotidiano”
Oriented for European Spanish, this book published by Edelsa contains 175 idioms and 45 refrains to add a colorful, natural dimension to everyday speech.
Each listing contains an illustration of the literal meaning of the phrase, an explanation of the actual meaning and sentences that naturally use said expression in context. Since this book is updated every year, readers are assured that they’re learning phrases and sayings that are currently used by native speakers.
The DELE preparation resources are designed for students who are trying to prepare for the internationally-recognized Spanish proficiency exam. Most of the resources listed are available in all levels of the DELE, from A1 to C2. All are ideal for self-study, although they would also provide an excellent supplement to a formal DELE course.
Maybe you want to go to graduate school in a Spanish-speaking country (that’s why yours truly may take this test). Perhaps you want to give prospective employers an official qualification of your Spanish level.
For the overachievers among us, maybe you just want to prove to yourself that you can pass. Whatever the reason, here are a few books that can help you join the ranks of the aprobados. While various grammar and vocabulary resources would surely be helpful supplements, these books are specifically geared towards preparing learners for this specific exam.
Taken from the DELE section of Instituto Cervantes:
The DELE examinations have been designed following the guidelines of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) of the Council of Europe, which ensures a practical way of establishing a standard, international and objective measurement of the level that should be reached at each teaching stage, and in evaluating results.
Before signing up for the exam and buying your prep books, take the placement test provided by Instituto Cervantes. As each level is divided into sub-levels, e.g. C1.1 – C1.4, you can see exactly where your current level falls on the CEFR spectrum. After some intense studying, you may want to take the online test again to see how much you’ve progressed.
As mentioned earlier in this post, the self-study version of nuevo Prisma contains DELE preparation for all levels, and “Dominio: Curso de perfeccionamiento” is heeded as preparation specifically for the DELE C2. As a note, the format of the C1 and C2 exams is quite different from the lower level exams.
11. “Preparación DELE”
This series by Edelsa is available for every level of the DELE. Each book is separated into six themes, each of which contains a sample exam and corresponding vocabulary. An audio CD is included for the listening section of the exam.
In my opinion, this should not be the only resource that you use to prepare for the exam. Although it has many practice exams and exercises, there’s little in the way of test-taking methods and strategies.
12. “El cronómetro”
“El cronómetro,” published by Edinumen, is filled with both sample exams as well as numerous strategies and pautas to prepare its readers for the complexities of the DELE. As the authors seem to realize that not every learner is the same, this resource provides a variety of suggestions so students can determine which methods work best for them. The book contains four complete sample exams, although the amount of texts and other questions through this resource are supposedly equivalent to eight sample exams. An audio CD is included.
With that, your tour of the world of advanced Spanish textbooks has come to an end.
Scan the list another time or two, identify the books that best suit your needs, try a quick preview on Amazon and see which looks like the best possible option.
Remember, the textbook you choose will be a great long-term investment!
Even once you’ve achieved Spanish fluency, it’s always great to have a textbook to refer back to every now and then.
If you want something to supplement them to mix up your study routine, you can find more advanced content on FluentU, an app and website which turns authentic Spanish videos into immersive language lessons. You can click on the interactive subtitles to see context-specific definitions, pronunciation, and example sentences, all which are helpful for learning the nuances of advanced Spanish phrases and grammar structures.
Good luck—I have a hunch you’re on your way to great things.