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Best Books for Learning Spanish

Updated on July 1, 2011

The Best Spanish Book Isn't Necessarily a Spanish 101 Textbook...

I was fed up with Dicho y Hecho, the textbook I was obliged to use for my Spanish 101 class. Instead of well-organized chapters that explained the Spanish language in a logical and straightforward way, I saw cluttered pages full of pictures, cultural side notes, multiple font styles, and tutti-frutti colors. It was enough to make my head spin.

The Dicho y Hecho textbook treated me as a beginner on the one hand, yet at the same time it assumed I was advanced enough to deal with sentences and paragraphs written in untranslated Spanish. I knew if I depended on this book to get me through the class, I would fail.

So I went to the library and borrowed as many books on learning Spanish as I could carry. Later, my husband bought copies of the books that were the most helpful to me--the ones I knew I would refer to over and over again. This is a list of those Spanish books.

Easy Spanish Step-By-Step by Barbara Bregstein

Easy Spanish Step-By-Step
Easy Spanish Step-By-Step

This is the book that's probably going to save my butt in Spanish class. What I love about it is that it doesn't waste time with fluff, yet it's easy to read. It starts you off with a solid understanding of the rules of grammar. The exercises in the book help reinforce the information you learn. Along the way, you're introduced to new Spanish words that you'll use again and again. Easy Spanish uses a building block approach I desperately wanted and simply wasn't getting from my Spanish textbook.

Easy Spanish is not a comprehensive language book by any means--it's no substitute for a Spanish dictionary, for example. But as a beginner, I depend on this book the most.


Spanish for Dummies

Spanish For Dummies
Spanish For Dummies

I checked out Spanish for Dummies from the library at my teacher's recommendation, but I didn't end up buying it. While it's a good introduction to the Spanish language, it uses an entertaining and sometimes "fluffy" writing style. Since I'm taking a Spanish class and want good grades, I prefer a no-nonsense yet easy to understand book that cuts straight to the point. That's why I went with Easy Spanish Step-By-Step instead.

However, if you can't stand dry books and need a writing style that's conversational and fun, you certainly can't go wrong with Spanish for Dummies.

Also, I HIGHLY recommend this book's little brother, Spanish Essentials for Dummies.


Spanish Essentials for Dummies

Spanish Essentials For Dummies
Spanish Essentials For Dummies

For a stripped-down list of the basics, Spanish Essentials for Dummies is one of the best companion books to have. Sometimes I need a quick refresher on a certain aspect of the language, such as expressing date and time, or communicating in the past and present tense, etc. Although the regular Spanish for Dummies book is good for learning Spanish, Spanish Essentials for Dummies is superior if you need a quick reference book.


Merriam-Webster's Spanish-English Dictionary

Merriam-Webster's Spanish-English Dictionary
Merriam-Webster's Spanish-English Dictionary

Even if I had the perfect Spanish textbook, I would still bring a Spanish dictionary to class at minimum. We often have in-class assignments where it helps to know more than a handful of Spanish words, and that's where a Spanish-English dictionary comes in handy.

Besides, if you need a quick reminder about what a word means, it's easier to look it up in a dictionary. I hate flipping haphazardly through a textbook, trying to remember where I saw a particular word or phrase.


501 Spanish Verbs

501 Spanish Verbs with CD-ROM and Audio CD (501 Verb Series)
501 Spanish Verbs with CD-ROM and Audio CD (501 Verb Series)

A basic introduction to Spanish guide will introduce you to a few important verbs, such as talking and eating, but they barely scratch the surface. Think of all the verbs we use in English every day: He ran, I tripped, she answered, I stopped, we drove, he cooked, etc. If you didn't know so many verbs, you wouldn't be able to say much.

You can't be fluent in Spanish unless you know a lot of Spanish verbs, period. 501 Spanish Verbs is the best, since it gives you a complete list of fully conjugated verbs. You can practice the verbs in all their tenses (I go, he goes, we're going, we will go, etc).


Why You Need More Than More than One Spanish Book

I didn't just settle on one Spanish book: I bought several. That's because there isn't a single perfect, all-in-one "Learn Spanish" book. Some books explain certain concepts better than others. Some books approach the language in a general way, while others zero-in on verbs or grammar structure. You need a more generalized Spanish book to help you learn the basics of the language and walk you through the rules of grammar, but it helps immeasurably to also have at least one reference book (such as a dictionary).

For me, having multiple references helps give me a better understanding of the language I'm trying to learn. If an explanation in one book is a little weak, I'll turn to another book for a better definition. If one book is an unbeatable grammar reference but doesn't list many new Spanish words, I'll turn to the Spanish-English dictionary.

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    • profile image

      Valerie C. 

      3 years ago

      I feel like there's supposed to be a list of recommended books accompanying this article. Did it get deleted? I can't figure out how to access it!

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      Dearst Pearson and Caroline!Ie28099m glad to join your helpful meothd of doing better English free of charge. This is amazing!Please send the above book. It is very useful. Your lessons will help me . Thank you much for that!Yours Pero from Brcko, Bosnia and Hercegovina and Republic of Srpska

    • profile image

      Jacobo Cubiles 

      3 years ago

      check out the Spanish Verb Conjugator 1.859

    • worldwidesouven profile image


      5 years ago

      Thanks for useful information.

    • worldwidesouven profile image


      5 years ago

      Thanks for useful information.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      "Schaum's Outline of Spanish Grammar, 5ed (Schaum's Outline Series)" - This was my favorite and I still use it after 6 years of study. The basics, with exercises.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I am a Spanish teacher and this is my new favorite thing: Colón más allá del océano. It is a great novel for intermediate level (the cover says advanced, but 2nd year students can read it).

    • jder profile image


      5 years ago

      I've heard good things about the Easy Spanish Step-by-Step but haven't yet used it. I think the 501 Spanish verbs is a little overrated, especially with conjugations now being easily referenced for free online.

      I've written about how to learn Spanish verb conjugations, as these are particular difficult for Spanish learners to master.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Hola! I'm a Spanish teacher. And as a teacher, I would recommend Spanish course "Sueña". There're books of different levels. And all of them are very interesting and useful.

    • Phillyfreeze profile image

      Ronald Tucker 

      6 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky

      I recently purchased Pimsleur "Quick & Simple Spanish...I am an auditory learner so the the DVD is wonderfully suited for me.

      Great list of books for anyone wishing to learn Spanish. I would like to try "Spanish For Dummies" this series of educational books has a very good reputation for teaching various subjects.


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