8 Best Books to Learn Spanish for Beginners in 2024

Last updated Jun 16, 2024
By Miguel Martín Sánchez

Looking for the best books to learn Spanish for beginners? There are plenty of options out there but which one should you choose? When you don’t have a Spanish teacher to guide you and you don’t have a clue, it’s hard to figure out the best book to buy.

I’ve been on both sides of this problem. As a student, I learned both English and French from scratch. As a teacher, I’ve taught Spanish as a foreign language to English speakers. In both roles, I had to find good Spanish books for beginners.

So, if you’re anxious to get started on your journey to Spanish fluency, look no further. I’ve done the research for you and come up with some great book recommendations to get you off to a flying start.

Whether you’re looking for Latin American Spanish or European Spanish, I have some great ideas for you. ¡Vamos!

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The best books to learn Spanish for beginners at a glance

There are plenty of details in this article to help you figure out which book is the best choice for you to learn Spanish. But if you’re a Speedy González and just desperate to get out of those starting blocks and into a Spanish-speaking country, here’s a list of my top picks for the best books to learn Spanish for beginners.

Best all-rounder for self-study: Pasos 1 Spanish Beginner’s Course Pack

Best all-rounder for Spanish teachers: Pasos 1 Spanish Beginner’s Course Pack

Best for holiday Spanish: Talk Spanish Box Set (Book/CD Pack)

Most comprehensive: Spanish All-In-One For Dummies

Best for business: Spanish All-In-One For Dummies

Best for grammar: Learn Spanish: Grammar Workbook for Adult Beginners

Best for Spanish reading skills: Short Stories in Spanish for Beginners

Best for reading and writing exercises: Easy Spanish Step-by-Step

Best for vocabulary: Spanish Frequency Dictionary – Essential Vocabulary

Best for vintage cool: Madrigal’s Magic Key to Spanish

Best all-rounder for self-study and teachers
Pasos 1 Spanish Beginner’s Course Pack
$62.95

What we think: This complete learning package is the best choice for self-study learners and Spanish teachers alike.

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07/21/2024 07:21 am GMT

What makes a book good for beginners to learn Spanish?

Not all Spanish learning resources are made equally. With so many books to choose from, I focused on what I believe really matters in a good beginner’s Spanish book.

Not too long, not too short, and fun!

Books that guide you gradually and that aren’t too serious are the best. The main thing here is to enjoy learning all the different language skills: speaking, listening, reading, writing.

If you’re having fun, achieving your learning goals, and can see the end, you’re more likely to keep going. So, don’t start by reading a complete Spanish grammar or you probably won’t get very far!

Book design can affect your learner motivation

If the books have good design with images and illustrations, you’ll find them more pleasant to use. Because let’s face it, there’s nothing less motivating than having to slog through heavy text.

Page quality is important. If the pages are too thin you’ll have to do the activities on a separate notepad, which annoys some learners.

Keep it real

For the listening part, it’s best if you can learn with real situations that you might find yourself in.

Perhaps you can imagine you’re buying train tickets in Madrid or getting some delicious tacos in Mexico City. That way you get to daydream about your travels while you learn.

Mix Latin American and European Spanish

Real life means being ready to communicate with different people from all over the Spanish-speaking world. Sometimes this gets forgotten in the language-learning process.

A good Spanish book should give you the chance to listen to a range of voices and accents. And a good Spanish learner should be curious about hearing them.

Detailed research on books to learn Spanish for beginners

Below is my research on a range of books to learn Spanish. Since the variety is the spice of life, you’ll find some traditional Spanish textbooks and some more unusual and specialist options.

You’ll also get info about good book choices for Spanish from different Spanish-speaking countries.

So, you’re sure to find a course book you like the look of among all the learning resources included here

1. Pasos 1 (Fourth Edition) Spanish Beginner’s Course: Course Pack

Best all-rounder for self-study learners and Spanish teachers

Latest edition: 2015

Publisher: John Murray Language

Type of Spanish: Spain and Latin American

The Pasos 1 Course Pack has everything you need to start learning Spanish as a second language. It’ll help you work on the full skillset: speaking, listening, reading, and writing.

This pack was my first choice when I was teaching Spanish to beginners in the UK. I bought the full pack with the CDs and my students just bought the book, available separately. But if you’re learning alone without a teacher, then it’s best to buy the full pack.

The course pack includes the all-essential course book, audio CDs (3 hours of recordings), a DVD containing 12 videos, and two support books with the answers to the exercises and recording transcripts.

Jointly written by a Spanish teacher from Queen Mary University, London, and a native English language expert, and printed in color with good design, the publishers have invested in making this a good learning resource. So, it’s not surprising that it’s a best-seller.

Features

  • 288 pages, not too long, not too short.
  • 14 study units give you a comprehensive learning experience.
  • Colorful, clear design with photos makes the book engaging.
  • Exercises with answers
  • Audio CDs and a DVD with videos to help you learn better. Transcripts included!
  • Everything you need to pass the UK GCSE exam. ¡Maravilloso!

What we think: This complete learning package is the best choice for self-study learners and Spanish teachers alike. No other book I found beats this one for all-round usability.

BE CAREFUL! You can buy the course book and its supporting materials separately. However, we recommend getting the whole package for a comprehensive learning experience. But if you decide to buy the book and CDs separately, make double sure you’re buying what you want.

2. Talk Spanish Box Set (Book/CD Pack): The ideal course for learning Spanish – all in one pack

Best for holiday Spanish

Latest edition: 2014

Publisher: BBC

Type of Spanish: Spain

Part of the BBC’s well-known Talk series, this complete beginner’s pack will help you talk in Spanish.

Two books contain colorful activities and clear section divisions. There’s lots of white space on the page, so you don’t get overwhelmed with print.

With plenty of listening activities and a variety of activities, this course is designed to keep things interesting.

Note that you need to have the book open to help you work through the listening, so this isn’t a good option if you’re looking for an audio-only course.

The length of the modules is manageable. This is motivating because you can plan to complete a module or half a module in one session. It’ll help you feel like you’re making progress quickly.

The course covers the standard range of basic vocabulary you’re likely to need when traveling in a Spanish-speaking country.

Features

  • 576 pages
  • Four CDs (240 minutes of recording) with a range of speakers to help you train your ear
  • All-in-one pack combining Talk Spanish 1 and Talk Spanish 2 for a more complete learning experience
  • Colorful, well-spaced-out activities prevent boredom

What we think: To be able to talk you’ll need quite a lot of practice, but this pack will help you order your sangria and buy your train ticket. For the price, this is a good option if you want to learn holiday Spanish and don’t want to do too much reading or writing. Consider combining it with a Spanish grammar book for better all-round learning.

3. Spanish All-In-One For Dummies

Most comprehensive and best for business

Latest edition: 2009

Publisher: For Dummies

Type of Spanish: Spain and Latin American

This best-selling book for learners of Spanish comes with the quality guarantees you’d associate with such a well-known publisher.

According to them, this book is designed “to help people master Spanish basics and beyond”. With just over 700 pages of dense text covering everything from numbers to gardening, it’ll certainly help you do that.

This all-in-one book is actually a combination of four books: beginner, intermediate, grammar and audio set. So, it’s designed to take you beyond Spanish beginner level.

With a high star-rating on Amazon, one reviewer said: “I like learning languages the old-fashioned way: using books to learn vocabulary and grammar, and then finding someone to practice with. For Dummies is a perfect primer for someone who already has some, but not much, background in Spanish and wants improve to the next level.”

If you need to speak Spanish at work, the intermediate section includes Spanish for a range of professional contexts including business Spanish, banking Spanish, and Spanish for hospitality, real estate, education, law enforcement, and health work.

Features

  • 704 pages
  • Includes audio CD
  • Covers grammar
  • Covers business Spanish

What we think: If you’re a serious learner who likes lots of detail, this book is a great choice for you. The danger with it is that it’s so comprehensive that beginners in Spanish might get overwhelmed. You get lots of instructions, but don’t expect colorful photographs and spaced-out exercises.

4. Madrigal’s Magic Key to Spanish

Best for vintage cool

Latest edition: 1989 (with numerous reissues)

Publisher: Crown

Type of Spanish: Latin American

Illustrated by none other than Andy Warhol, this beginners’ Spanish book is a classic choice from the USA. The author Margarita Madrigal wrote this book in 1950 and Spanish learners still love it today.

Madrigal became a well-known Spanish teacher with Ernest Hemingway and FBI agents numbering among her students.

This book will teach you the basics of the Spanish language using a simple rule-based method. The lessons are short and easy to follow.

The format is dated, but that only adds to its charm. It makes you want to buy a vintage high-school writing desk to sit at while you study.

Features

  • 512 pages (but a small-sized book)
  • Easy to follow with clear explanations
  • Practice exercises
  • Illustrations by Andy Warhol
  • Written by a renowned author and Spanish teacher

What we think: Just knowing that the writer of this book taught Spanish to Ernest Hemingway and that she was a Spanish teacher for the FBI, plus that the illustrations in the book are by Andy Warhol, give you more than enough reasons to buy it, at least out of curiosity!

5. Short Stories in Spanish for Beginners

Best for Spanish reading skills

Latest edition: 2018

Publisher: Teach Yourself

Type of Spanish: European Spanish (Spain)

This book of eight short stories offers you an enjoyable way to expand your Spanish vocabulary. The stories are fun for both adults and teenagers.

Also available as an audiobook so you can listen to the stories on the go.

Features

  • 240 pages
  • Full plot summary
  • Comprehension questions after each chapter.
  • Accessible grammar
  • A bilingual glossary for bolded words in each text (1,000 most-frequent words)
  • Audiobook available

What we think: A different and fun way to complement more comprehensive textbooks. By reading this book, you’ll learn new vocabulary, which is essential to improve in any language.

6. Easy Spanish Step-by-Step

Best for reading and writing exercises

Latest edition: 2005

Publisher: McGraw-Hill

Type of Spanish: Latin America, Spain

This book takes a grammar-based approach to learning Spanish. The content is created based on a frequency study of the most-used words and verbs.

You get a blend of reading and writing exercises. It might be a good choice if you’re already working on your Spanish skills through another source such as Spanish podcasts and want to start taking your Spanish learning more seriously.

This lesson book is one option to help you start getting your head around the rules of Spanish.

Don’t forget to have a look at the McGraw-Hill Education Language Lab app, where you can find flashcards and Spanish audio recordings.

Features

  • 320 pages
  • 15 modules
  • 150 exercises and readings
  • Expand your Spanish vocabulary
  • Learn Spanish grammar

What we think: It might just be another book with activities, but it comes from a reputed publisher and writer and is highly rated on Amazon. If you’re looking for a Spanish exercise book, this one will definitely help you learn.

NOTE: a newer edition of this book called Complete Spanish Step-by-Step is available. That book combines this book with the contents of Advanced Spanish Step-by-Step. The best option for you will depend on how far you intend to take your Spanish studies.

7. Learn Spanish: Grammar Workbook for Adult Beginners

Best for Spanish Grammar

Latest edition: 2022

Publisher: Independent

Type of Spanish: International

When you’re learning Spanish, there’s no need to start out with a complete Spanish grammar. But if you want to see progress, you’ll need some Spanish grammar to help you construct the sentences.

This book will guide you to achieve that. It includes activities to practice and reinforce what you’ve learned. You get a QR code to access bonus activities.

With high ratings on Amazon, one reviewer writes: “This book managed to help educate me in gaps of knowledge I had about the Spanish language that I couldn’t find the answer for otherwise. I got to page 67 on my first time opening the book. Highly recommend!”

Features

  • 245 pages
  • 150 exercises
  • Clear layout
  • Pronunciation guide and grammar tips
  • Bonus: Full audiobook version, 2 e-books, practice worksheets, flashcards to print out
  •  

What we think: While some reviewers complain of typos and difficulty in locating the answer keys, at the price, this is the best option we’ve found to get you started on Spanish grammar.

8. Spanish Frequency Dictionary – Essential Vocabulary: 2500 Most Common Spanish Words

Best for Spanish vocabulary

Latest edition: 2018

Publisher: MostUsedWords.com

Type of Spanish: European Spanish and Latin American Spanish

This vocabulary book was created by analyzing Spanish subtitles. It contains a frequency list of the most-used Spanish words. According to the publisher, these words represent 92% of spoken Spanish and 82% of written Spanish.

It’s a dictionary and not a textbook. But the layout is clear with translations in English and example sentences.

So, you could use this as an addition to your other learning resources to help you expand your vocabulary. It’s a great a source to use to create flashcards with a free flashcard app like Anki.

Features

  • 238 pages
  • 2,500 most-common Spanish words
  • Covers CEFR English levels from beginner (A1) to intermediate (B1).

What we think: This book won’t work as your only source to learn Spanish. But since variety is the spice of life, it’ll make a useful addition to your collection to help you grow your Spanish vocabulary.

FAQ about learning beginner’s Spanish

The language learning process can be quite intimidating. But don’t despair! You’ll be surprised how far you can get when armed with just a few Spanish words. To help you get started, below are some classic questions that language learners ask.

How long does it take to learn Spanish?

Language learners wanting to learn complete Spanish will need to invest about 700 hours. But I know from my experience as a Spanish teacher that a beginner can manage to have a very basic Spanish conversation after just a few lessons.

If you’re a beginner, focus on your Spanish conversation and worry less about learning the complete Spanish grammar. That way, you’ll get some early wins that will encourage you to keep learning Spanish in the longer term.

How can I learn Spanish fast?

The best way to learn Spanish fast is to be consistent in your Spanish practice. Try to do a few minutes each day to make sure you remember what you’ve learned and progress.

For more ideas on Spanish resources for learning Spanish quickly, check out this great article on our site packed with tips on how to learn Spanish fast.

Can You Teach Yourself Spanish?

Learning Spanish alone is possible if you have all the learning resources you need, and if you’re a good student!

If you’re on a budget, start with a good course book like the Pasos one we recommend in this article and combine it with other self-study options such as a Spanish podcast.

But if you can afford an online Spanish course, you’ll get a complete Spanish learning experience with Rosetta Stone or Babbel.

Despite developments in AI, Spanish conversation is always going to be tricky if you’re learning alone. Get your own online Spanish teacher at a good price with Italki.

While there are some good ideas to help you work on your speaking in our article on how to learn Spanish for free, the investment in an online Spanish tutor will pay off. This will be true even if you just take one class a month.

What is a good first book to read in Spanish?

A good first book to read in Spanish is a story book designed for language learners, such as Short Stories in Spanish for Beginners mentioned above.

If you want something written for native speakers, you could try a children’s book because the Spanish will be easier to understand. Choose a story you already know in English, such as a Harry Potter translation. That way, it’ll be much easier to follow.

Can I learn Spanish just by reading books?

If you follow a quality Spanish course book, your Spanish will certainly improve.

But languages are alive and so you’ll only get so far with self-study options. In the language-learning process, you have to interact with native Spanish speakers at some point.

If you want to start with a book, that’s fine. Once you build up your confidence, maybe you’ll be ready to find an online Spanish tutor to teach you how to improve your level.

What other Spanish learning resources, courses and alternatives to books can I use?

The best Spanish resources are online courses such as the ones offered by Rosetta Stone and Babbel. A great free resource is Spanish podcasts and vocabulary building apps like Duolinguo.

Check out our articles on how to learn Spanish fast and how to learn Spanish for free to help you find more ideas to help you on your Spanish learning journey.

If you’re ready to invest a little more, try an online Spanish course, such as the ones offered by Rosetta Stone.

Top pick
Rosetta Stone – Leading Online Language Courses

What we think: the best choice if you're looking for an online course to learn a language.

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Written by Miguel Martín Sánchez

Born in Seville, Spain, Miguel has travelled extensively to learn English and French. Having worked as a Spanish teacher in the UK, he's now the webmaster and project manager at The Translator's Studio.

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