Soldiering through Spanish lessons all by your lonesome?
Want a helping hand?
Then read on to uncover a selection of the best books available in 2021 to help you learn Spanish.
Keep these bad boys on your bookshelves for whenever you need a good study session or a quick fact check.
¡Empecemos! (Let’s get started!)
Yes, grammar is probably the least fun part of learning any language (although you can use some unconventional techniques to ease the process a bit).
For example, did you know that there are over 10 different tenses in the Spanish language? Don’t be scared. All it means is that you need patience and excellent reference books to help you learn what you need to improve your grammar-related skills over time.
Let’s take a look at the best books on the market that’ll assist you in achieving just that.
1. Best for a complete grammar education: “Practice Makes Perfect Complete Spanish Grammar”
The “Practice Makes Perfect” series is widely known within the language learning community thanks to the very high quality of their books. This edition of the series is a 350-page workbook covering the most important grammar rules for you to understand in order to communicate better in Spanish. It features clear explanations along with lots of realistic examples and free online audio recordings to practice your listening skills, as well.
The good thing about this book is that it offers a wide variety of exercises for different learning styles like multiple choice questions, fill-in-the-blank games and creative writing exercises among other things.
The structure of the book is pretty easy to follow since it’s well organized, so you can use it at your own pace. I would recommend you just pick what you want to learn and then focus on that by practicing with the exercises.
2. Best for intermediate to advanced learners: “Advanced Spanish Step-by-Step”
This book goes over intermediate- to advanced-level Spanish grammar in an easy, progressive manner.
You’ll first start with a review of the basics (which you should know before you pick up the book) before diving into the grammar rules needed for confident communication. Lessons cover important Spanish grammar topics like complex verb tenses, parts of speech, sentence structure and more. Along the way, you’ll be taught plenty of vocabulary words that you’re likely to use in real conversation.
Before you decide to use this book, you should make sure that you’ve at least reached an intermediate-level understanding of the Spanish language. Otherwise, you may get a bit overwhelmed by the content and exercises, as they’re admittedly quite detailed and extensive.
3. Best for advanced learners: “Practice Makes Perfect: Advanced Spanish Grammar”
This is kind of the 2.0 version of the previous book. This is one that really goes into the intricate details of the Spanish language and is aimed at intermediate to advanced Spanish students (if you’re just starting out, this version might be too specific for you).
It features a lot of practical exercises which specifically aim to help you communicate more naturally. These break free from the ready-to-use sentences found in other books and get you to create more sophisticated phrases of your own as you go along.
If you already have a good grasp of the Spanish language and want to go far beyond the fundamental principles, this edition of the “Practice Makes Perfect” series is a great option for you!
One of the things that beginners complain about the most when they start learning a new language is la falta de vocabulario (missing vocabulary). Of course, sitting down with a dictionary in order to learn it all by heart isn’t always an option (I tried it, don’t do it). So, how can you increase your vocabulary as quickly as possible without spending endless hours reciting words from a dictionary?
One extremely effective way is by using FluentU.
There are also many other methods out there to try.
Just reading in Spanish on a regular basis is one excellent example.
But a couple of very well-made books also exist to help you learn vocabulary almost effortlessly. Let’s examine what they can do for you.
4. Best for visual learners: “Oxford Picture Dictionary English-Spanish”
This book is a bilingual picture dictionary. This means that every single term in this dictionary is illustrated with contextual drawings (it’s pretty handy, believe me!).
It’s organized into 12 themed units which cover a wide variety of different aspects of life (people, housing, food, recreation, etc).
The dictionary features stories, role plays, clear visual descriptions of words and dialogues to help you learn new vocabulary quickly. The cool thing is that this isn’t a classic dictionary, so you can easily read a page per day and get a lot out of it. Plus, it’s all visual so it’ll take you three to five minutes to do so!
5. Best for absolute beginners: “See It and Say It in Spanish”
This isn’t quite a picture dictionary, but this book does teach level 1 Spanish vocabulary through pictures. It uses two very specific techniques to help you integrate your new vocabulary into your existing Spanish knowledge.
First and foremost, it uses the word and picture method: Each new word or sentence is accompanied by a line drawing that instantly explains its meaning.
Secondly, the ready-made vocabulary presents you with everyday Spanish words and phrases that look and sound like their English equivalents in order to ease you into conversational Spanish. These two methods together pack a powerful punch and are pretty effective.
When going through the book, you can notice right away that it doesn’t focus on your typical touristic phrase. Instead, it gives you the vocabulary you need to start expressing yourself quickly and meaningfully in Spanish. A propósito (by the way), it’s super cheap.
6. Best for building a core vocabulary: “2000 Most Common Spanish Words in Context”
You’ve probably heard of the idea that, once you learn a specific number of words in a language, you can understand a majority of native-level text or speech. In accordance with that point, this book focuses on teaching you the top 2000 common Spanish vocabulary words.
Every word comes with example sentences that show how you can actually use it in conversation. This is a critical feature that’ll likely serve as the most helpful asset to your learning. It’s one thing to learn words and their meanings in isolation, but it’s a different (and very necessary) matter to learn how you can actually apply them in speech.
The format of this book is very simple, making it easy to read and understand. It can work well in setting a foundation for your Spanish vocabulary before you move on to more advanced terms and phrases.
If you’ve fully committed yourself to learning Spanish, you definitely want to be able to maintain a basic conversation with somebody in Spanish as soon as possible.
Now, it can sometimes be a little tricky to improve your speaking skills if you don’t have anybody to speak Spanish with on a daily basis (although you can use Skype for this purpose). With the right tools, you can still gain the knowledge and confidence you need for holding conversations.
FluentU is one such excellent tool that can boost your Spanish-speaking ability. With its vast video catalog, FluentU can not only teach you useful, common vocabulary, but also give you exposure to the language as it’s used in real-life situations. That means you can hear and see the workings of Spanish conversations in all kinds of contexts.
But believe it or not, you can also get better at speaking by reading specific books that were designed to help Spanish learners with their conversational skills. Learn speaking by reading? Let’s take a look at how these books work.
7. Best for mastering everyday conversations: “Practice Makes Perfect: Spanish Conversation”
Yet another “Practice Makes Perfect” book listed in this article. This edition’s goal is to get you to develop a confident and spontaneous speaking style by training you with real-world examples and engaging exercises.
It’s organized into 12 units that present realistic conversational situations like making introductions, giving opinions, having a date or telling a story. Each chapter starts off with a dialogue (which is uncommon for books in this series but makes sense for a book on having conversations!), followed by a variety of exercises to put what you learned into practice.
This edition is full of clear instructions on correct pronunciation, syntax, word usage and how to employ conversation-ready phrases. Note that an English to Spanish and Spanish to English glossary is also included to help you along.
This book is aimed at aiding intermediate Spanish learners, although you might get some great benefits by having it even if you’re just a beginner—or an advanced learner with lagging speaking skills (which is quite common).
8. Best for audio-enhanced learning: “Living Language Spanish, Complete Edition”
This product is a huge multimedia Spanish learning program that features three books (for beginner, intermediate and advanced learners) along with nine CDs which are to be followed with the books (three CDs for each level). If you want to be able to speak Spanish quickly, this “Living Language” edition is for you.
The product is well organized with topic-based chapters (instead of lesson-based chapters like in most courses) and the goal here is to teach you conversational Spanish more than anything else.
The CDs work together with the books—they’re really the main feature of this course, rather than just a gimmick (as is the case with some products out there). They’re high-quality, clear and well-modulated recordings with the speaking rate set at a learner-appropriate speed. Things pick up as you progress through the chapters and CDs until you’re learning more fluent conversation.
You’ll learn new words, sentence structures and conjugations in each chapter. And here’s the icing on the cake: It’s pretty darn barato (cheap) for the amount of material you’ll be getting. Jump on it!
9. Best for conversation practice: “Collins Easy Learning: Spanish Conversation”
The book is separated into 12 units, each focusing on a certain situation and the Spanish (whether formal or informal) typically involved in it. They include contexts such as school, home, social media and business. All the key phrases are compiled at the end of each unit, forming an accessible, quick-access glossary.
Of course, when learning conversation, you’ll need to do more than just memorize sentences. The book also provides quick grammar and verb lessons to help you break down the phrases. Plenty of example sentences are also provided to illustrate points.
The book can be a great resource that gets you comfortable with the essentials and expectations of Spanish conversation. It can work well as either a stand-alone reference book or as a supplement to any other learning books you use.
Finally, getting your hands on a Spanish reader or two is an absolute must if you want to dramatically improve your reading skills. Readers have a couple of advantages over your typical Spanish language books which are written for natives.
In a nutshell, readers are specifically crafted for Spanish learners and, therefore, it’s just easier to get acclimated to the language of the text. Secondly, they more often than not include a glossary which saves you from carrying a massive dictionary around (or having to constantly open up a dictionary app and get distracted) every time you want to read some Spanish.
Lastly, Spanish readers usually employ different techniques to help integrate the Spanish language into your mind as smoothly as possible. This may be done through short and direct sentences, vocabulary lists, grammar footnotes and practice exercises, to give you a few examples of what you might expect.
Now, which Spanish reader should you get? Recommendations below!
10. Best for quick reading spurts: “Spanish Short Stories for Beginners: Easy Spanish Stories”
Narrative-based texts can give you the engagement and context you need to improve your comprehension skills. That’s why short stories are an incredibly fun way to get reading practice. This book features 20 bite-sized stories that aim to make Spanish studies seem less like a chore!
Every story in the book is formatted to teach you specific Spanish language concepts. Summaries are provided in both Spanish and English to provide you the basic plots. At the end of every tale, a glossary and questionnaires are provided to help you review and practice what you’ve learned.
Although the title states that the book is for beginners, it may actually be more suitable for intermediate-level learners. The Spanish used in some stories can be a bit challenging, so the book may not be the best first choice for novices to the language.
11. Best for mystery lovers: “Spanish Novels: Muerte en Buenos Aires“
This reader relates a detective story taking place in Buenos Aires. It features lots of short chapters written with simple grammar, vocabulary and sentences so that everything stays really easy to read. You’ll learn lots of useful vocabulary about different topics (like greetings or talking to friends and strangers, etc.).
Read one chapter per day and you should improve, ¡muy rápido! (very quickly!) If you’re getting bored of studying isolated sentences in Spanish, this book has your name on it. Put all your known Spanish vocabulary into a natural context, and pick up new words through the surrounding context. Awesome, right?
12. Best for advanced readers: “A Second Spanish Reader: A Dual-language Book”
This is a dual-language book. What’s that, you ask? It means that, in this book, there’s one page written in Spanish and one page written in English. The English page is a direct translation of the previous page written in Spanish.
This is pretty effective for learning since you’ll never get stuck because of a word or sentence you don’t know. This particular book features plays, lyrics, narrative verses and prose text coming from 50 excerpts of classic and modern Spanish literature.
Please note that this reader is more suitable for intermediate to advanced Spanish learners. To give you an idea, it’s at times comparable to reading Shakespeare in Spanish. You’ll need to have a solid grasp of the Spanish language to get the most out of it.
So, there you have them! Pick some books to start with from our list or your own picks according to your main learning concern and use the advice in this article in order to get the most out of each title.
Best of luck in your Spanish learning endeavors—and never stop reading!
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