The 20 Best Spanish Textbooks and How to Pick the Perfect One for You
There comes a time in every language learner’s life when they must start looking for books. So, naturally, you want to make sure you choose the right Spanish learning books to get started no matter what level of learning you’re in.
There are several types of books that will have a key influence on beginning and advancing in your Spanish learning journey.
We’ve highlighted a few of the best titles from each of these categories that have proved themselves highly valuable for Spanish learners.
- Reference Books
- Beginner Spanish Textbooks
- Intermediate Spanish Textbooks
- Advanced Spanish Textbooks
- And One More Thing…
Barron’s Foreign Language Guides are standard in anyone’s language library and there’s a good reason why. In this series, there is a book that focuses on vocabulary, another for verbs, and a third for grammar. If you’ve got these books at your disposal, you’ll find answers to all your Spanish speaking questions. Most of these books even come with MP3s or CDs so that you can hear and read the text.
These reference books will help you improve your Spanish whether you’re just beginning your language journey or whether you’re looking to brush up.
1. “Mastering Spanish Vocabulary”
First things first, vocabulary. It’s going to be hard to communicate with anyone if you don’t have a basic vocabulary.
Vocabulary is tangible: you can see and feel the words you’re learning around you in your daily life.
This book is organized by theme, which is incredibly helpful if you’re searching for something specific.
This book also comes with an audio MP3. How does this help your Spanish? You’ll read the words and hear them. This is immensely helpful when learning a new language.
The MP3 will help you learn the actual pronunciation of each word—improving your conversational skills immensely.
2. “Barron’s 501 Spanish Verbs”
Now that you have mastered your basic vocabulary, you’ll need to work on your Spanish verbs. This book will introduce you to all the most commonly-encountered verbs in the Spanish language.
They’re all the verbs you’ll need to hold 99.9% of Spanish conversations, conjugated in all of the Spanish languages 15 moods and tenses.
The introduction is dedicated to explaining the different tenses and when it’s appropriate to use them. Then the book segues seamlessly into teaching you different verbs in each of these tenses.
There are many examples of English sentences with their Spanish sentence counterparts. This book will help you learn exactly when it’s appropriate to use a certain verb tense.
3. “Barron’s Spanish Grammar”
Last but not least, the daunting monster: grammar.
No two languages have the exact same grammar. Of course, there are parallels in similar languages like French and Spanish, but there are still differences. Grammar doesn’t have to be so intimidating and this book proves it.
In the book “Barron’s Spanish Grammar,” you don’t have long lists of grammatical rules. There are boxes with tips in bold font, highlighted key points and memorization techniques included along the way to make the content more engaging. The lists that are in the book are easy to scan and study.
Beginner Spanish Textbooks
Practice makes perfect, right? That’s why your elementary school teachers made you spell out new words fifty times. It’s the same reason why your high school teachers assigned 100+ algebra problems for homework. The same applies when learning a language.
You can read and study for hours, but eventually you will need to get a pencil and a paper and start writing down conjugations yourself.
There are many different workbooks out there to help you gain confidence in your Spanish writing skills.
4. “First Spanish Reader: A Beginner’s Dual-Language Book”
This book not only teaches Spanish, but has 41 selections of short stories to boot. The source text is written by well-known Spanish and Latin American writers and captures the richness of their respective cultures.
And because this is a dual-language book, the English translations are found on the opposite pages—aiding learners to grasp the meaning of the piece.
This charming selection opens with the most manageable verb forms (present-indicative) and rounds up with a rich sample of future and conditional verbs.
Exercises and drills follow the selection and instill more lessons for the students. There’s also an excellent glossary at the end, which precludes any need for outside reference materials.
The book is not only for beginners, but also intermediate learners who need an engaging Spanish refresher.
5. “Easy Spanish Step-by-Step”
“Easy Spanish Step-by-Step” is an excellent starter book for anyone who’s an absolute beginner in Spanish.
With over 300 verb terms, exercises and enjoyable readings, you’ll find your Spanish comprehension level and conversational skills improving with each step.
6. “Madrigal’s Magic Key to Spanish”
This book, says “no” to rote memorization and instead gives the magic keys and shortcuts to unlock the Spanish language. The methods are unlike those traditionally used in schools, by teaching grammar in an innovative way: starting in the past tense.
It’s well-paced, clearly structured and presented in a no-nonsense manner. It weeds out needless complications and accelerates language acquisition.
One of the most important features of the book are the drills that painlessly incorporate vocabulary and improve conversational skills.
7. “Complete Spanish Grammar”
We already have a beginner title in the form of “Easy Spanish Step-by-step.” But this one has “comprehensive grammar book” written all over it.
And note that as elucidating grammar goes, this book focuses on Spanish as a spoken language, rather than as a written one—so you can be sure that the pages in this title are eminently practical.
In addition, of the 8 books in the set, this will be your “practice” book. This one’s unique because of the sheer number of opportunities it gives the reader to practice. There are 350 workbook exercises to put your Spanish through its paces.
Each lesson comes with a thorough evaluation, as well as exercises and activities that allow you to discover where the gaps in your understanding lie. And not only that, there are also support materials online.
8. “The Everything Learning Spanish Book: Speak, Write, and Understand Basic Spanish in No Time”
“The Everything Learning Spanish Book” will guide you through basic concepts like pronunciation, basic grammar rules and common vocabulary and phrases.
The textbook offers 20 chapters. Each chapter presents simple lessons along with examples to help you see what you’ve learned in action.
There’s also a helpful glossary (English-to-Spanish and Spanish-to-English) of vocabulary to refer back to when you’re not familiar with a word.
9. “Ultimate Spanish: Beginner-Intermediate”
“Ultimate Spanish Beginner-Intermediate” is designed to teach you Spanish from scratch—no previous experience required. But if you do have some previous experience, this book carries you right into the intermediate level.
With 40 lessons that include dialogues, grammar rules, usage rules, pronunciation information, cultural lessons and more, you’ll have all you need to get to an intermediate level of proficiency. “Ultimate Spanish Beginner-Intermediate” uses not only standard words and phrases, but also idiomatic expressions to give you a more complete view of the language.
Quizzes interspersed throughout will help you check your progress, while the glossary will provide a great reference for you to refer back to when you’re unsure of something.
Intermediate Spanish Textbooks
10.“Conversación y repaso: Intermediate Spanish”
“Conversación y repaso: Intermediate Spanish” (Conversation and review: Intermediate Spanish), is an official textbook that’s often used in traditional college classrooms.
It combines cultural lessons on topics like religion, economy and 20th century revolutionary movements, as well as grammar rules and vocabulary so that you simultaneously improve your Spanish skills and your understanding of the culture.
Exercises will help you practice what you’ve learned, providing you with an all-around great education. The textbook even comes with a CD to help you improve your listening skills.
11. “Intermediate Spanish for Dummies”
Don’t worry, “Intermediate Spanish for Dummies” doesn’t actually assume you’re a dummy.
What it does do is put intermediate-level rules in terms that are easy to understand. Each chapter is organized thematically with useful topics like “10 most common writing mistakes in Spanish” and “expressing yourself with subjunctive feeling.”
While this book focuses on helping you learn intermediate-level content, it’s also great for anyone who studied Spanish in the past: a brief refresher on basic Spanish is included to get you back on track.
“Intermediate Spanish for Dummies” aims to expand your vocabulary, learn new conjugations and hone your writing skills. Plus, activities in the book help you practice as you learn.
12. “Conversemos! Intermediate Conversation”
“Conversemos! Intermediate Conversation” (Let’s Talk! Intermediate Conversation), is another official college textbook.
This textbook’s main aim is to help improve your conversation skills, which is a standard focus of many conventional intermediate-level courses. You’ll learn valuable conversational tools like giving commands, sharing preferences and persuading others.
A variety of activities will help you practice these skills as you move along. Plus, if you don’t have anyone to practice your Spanish conversational skills with—never fear! The accompanying CD will help you with the spoken language.
13. “How to Become Fluent in Spanish”
Not for beginners, this book demonstrates that, with the right system, fluency is within reach for anyone with enough self-motivation.
The book focuses on word lists, memorization of passages, reading aloud and conversational practice—all to be done on a daily basis—no exceptions or excuses!
The book is short, only 32 pages—proving there is no hidden secret to becoming fluent in Spanish. What’s the approach then? Practice! Practice! Practice!
Advanced Spanish Textbooks
14. “The Ultimate Spanish Review and Practice”
If you’re an advanced language learner, this book is the ideal companion to maintain and improve your Spanish grammar skills and communicating even more fluently.
Chock full of exercises (over 400), illustrations, example sentences, flashcards, interactive quizzes and pre- and post-tests to see how well you’ve retained your information—this book takes you to a whole new level of advanced learning.
In addition, there are extensive audio exercises to help you further your pronunciation and conversational skills.
15. “Advanced Spanish Step-by-Step: Master Accelerated Grammar to Take Your Spanish to the Next Level”
“Advanced Spanish Step-by-Step” focuses on helping you develop more vocabulary, master complex grammar rules and understand advanced conjugations. All in all, this book aims to make you more confident with speaking and understanding the Spanish language.
With 15 progressive steps and 150 exercises, “Advanced Spanish Step-by-Step,” provides you with a clearly-structured learning plan. Exercises, grammar lessons and reading excerpts are interspersed to keep you on your toes.
16. “Advanced Spanish Grammar: A Self-Teaching Guide”
“Advanced Spanish Grammar” is designed for any advanced student who wants to improve his or her grammar, whether they’re learning entirely on their own or want to supplement additional coursework.
This textbook offers advanced grammar rules, difficult conjugations and over 1,000 vocabulary words. The ¡Atención! (Attention!) sections are particularly useful since these highlight some of the most problematic issues with the Spanish language.
Plus, “Advanced Spanish Grammar” is interactive, so you’ll have an opportunity to practice your new skills with helpful activities.
17. “Palabra por Palabra: Spanish Vocabulary for Edexcel A-level”
“Palabra por Palabra” (Word for Word), focuses on improving your authentic Spanish by teaching you useful idioms and common phrases.
The focus is on vocabulary acquisition. The book is organized thematically so that you can easily select topics of interest. For instance, some sections include descriptions of people, work, the media, health, etc.
If you’re already familiar with all your Spanish grammar, this is a good way to learn the vocabulary you need to nudge you closer to full fluency.
18. “Guide to Spanish Idioms”
This is a great book for advanced learners who already know their grammar, verbs, conjugations and definitions of words, but are ready to speak like a native.
It is also a great guide for anyone planning to travel to a Spanish-speaking country.
With over 2,500 Spanish idioms ranging in an array of uses—each translated into English—you’ll be hard pressed to put this book down.
Dictionaries are just that—dictionaries. Books full of text, words, definitions and without pictures.
A dictionary is an important tool to research words that you don’t understand. While most vocabulary books will help you with this, a dictionary is a necessary resource.
There are two kinds of dictionaries: pocket dictionaries and traditional dictionaries. Each has its pros and cons. The biggest difference is you can carry a pocket dictionary around, while a traditional dictionary will make its home on your desk or nightstand.
If you like the idea of carrying a dictionary in your pocket, you may also want to branch out into app-based dictionaries. For instance, the FluentU program gives you a chance to both practice your Spanish skills and utilize a contextual video dictionary.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
If you prefer a physical dictionary, read on for my recommendations:
19. “Barron’s Pocket Spanish-English Dictionary”
This pocket dictionary is perfect for looking up words that you hear and don’t know the meaning of.
Having a mobile dictionary is so important to learning a new language. And while having a standard-sized dictionary is equally important, pocket dictionaries are made for convenience and quick access when you need to research something quickly.
You can easily pull out this pocket dictionary mid-conversation if you need to find a specific word or communicate with someone who may speak a different dialect of Spanish than you.
20. “The New World Spanish/English, English/Spanish Dictionary”
This dictionary is what is known as “Mass Market size,” which means it’s the size of a small paperback book. Not as small as a pocket-size dictionary and not as large as a standard-sized dictionary.
Comprehensive—this dictionary boasts over 3,000 new words, phrases, meanings and over 70,000 entries.
The print is quite small, so you know those 1,000 pages are put to good use. Plus, it’s perfect for students, traveling and having that necessary resource nearby when you need to look up a Spanish word or practice your language learning.
So which Spanish language learning book should you pull off the shelf at one of your favorite bookstores or buy from an online store? How can you successfully build a strong Spanish library?
Start with one or two books from each of the categories above. Once you do that, you’ll be well on your way to becoming an advanced Spanish speaker.
And One More Thing…
If you've made it this far that means you probably enjoy learning Spanish with engaging material and will then love FluentU.
Other sites use scripted content. FluentU uses a natural approach that helps you ease into the Spanish language and culture over time. You’ll learn Spanish as it’s actually spoken by real people.
FluentU has a wide variety of videos, as you can see here:
FluentU brings native videos within reach with interactive transcripts. You can tap on any word to look it up instantly. Every definition has examples that have been written to help you understand how the word is used. If you see an interesting word you don’t know, you can add it to a vocab list.
Review a complete interactive transcript under the Dialogue tab, and find words and phrases listed under Vocab.
Learn all the vocabulary in any video with FluentU’s robust learning engine. Swipe left or right to see more examples of the word you’re on.
The best part is that FluentU keeps track of the vocabulary that you’re learning, and gives you extra practice with difficult words. It'll even remind you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned. Every learner has a truly personalized experience, even if they’re learning with the same video.
Start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)