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11 Spanish Learning Books and Courses We Used (Print and Audio)

Despite Ecuador being a Spanish country, we are asked if it’s necessary to learn Spanish before moving. The short answer is: “No, you don’t have to learn before you move.” We didn’t and we got by fine. But if you do learn Spanish (even in a basic form) before you move, life will be much easier.

Best books to learn Spanish

11 Best Books to Learn Spanish: Our Picks

And certainly, you’ll want to learn it once you arrive in Ecuador – or any other Spanish-speaking country.

It not only shows respect for your new host country, but it also makes your life easier and much more interesting. To get started, you’ll want to learn how to say the letters and sounds in Spanish.

Over the past 3 years, we’ve spent over $1000 on Spanish books, cd’s, software and classroom courses to learn Spanish.

See our reader’s choice: The Best Book to Learn Spanish

Really! Over $1000?! Just what did we spend all the money on? Aside from a Spanish course, we took here in Cuenca, everything we purchased were materials that we could use at home. 

The Books and Audio We Used to Learn Spanish

Looking for great books to learn Spanish? Here are the ones we used:

1. Madrigal’s Magic Key to Spanish

This book was referred to us by one of the first Ecuadorian friends we made, the first week we arrived in Ecuador.

He actually had a copy in his house and he lent it to us (out of pity, I think). We didn’t even know how or when to say buenas tardes when we arrived.

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In the first few chapters, the book covers hundreds of Spanish words that you already know.

Highly recommended. Read our full review.
Bottom line: Worth every penny

2. Pimsleur Language Programs: Basic Spanish

This course came recommended to us, but because of the cost – and its lack of flashy marketing (sorry, I’m a sucker) – we waited to buy it.

After struggling for a year here in Ecuador we purchased it online with Audible and it helped us the most of all the courses. Now you can buy directly from Pimsleur – from 1 week to a monthly subscription.

Its slogan is: Learn to Speak and Understand Latin American Spanish. 

Price: Get a 7-day free trial. After that, there is a monthly subscription fee. Free lesson to monthly subscriptions – from $15-$20/month. (price depends on the package and currency)
Bottom line: If you are serious about learning Spanish, and don’t want to buy 11 different books and courses, buy this one.

3. Standard Deviants: Habla Espanol?

This package includes 2 programs:

  1. Learning Spanish: The Basics
  2. Beyond the Basics

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The actors can be a little over the top, but we found it actually helps us to remember the lessons better. Sometimes they are funny … other times just really corny.

Bottom line: It’s a great way to learn the rules.  The result of the corny skits is that we remembered the lessons really well.

4. The Standard Deviants – Learn Advanced Spanish – Verbs

Verbs are the problem area for all gringos – right after pronunciation. A slightly different emphasis on a word can change the meaning from first-person present-tense to third-person past-tense. Believe me, that can really confuse a conversation!

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Bottom line: I’m a fan of the Standard Deviants series. We have 5 of their programs – certainly worth the money.

5. The Standard Deviants Super Spanish (4 pak)

My favorite video Spanish course comes in a 4 dvd pack. A total of 330 minutes on 4 discs.

We have all of these and they are worth it, especially if you prefer visual learning to books.

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Bottom line: These are some well-produced training videos that make it easy to assimilate the Spanish lessons. Highly recommended.

6. 501 Spanish Verbs with CD-ROM and Audio CD

In terms of a reference book, we couldn’t find a better one. The introductory 40 pages or so goes into detail explaining the different verb tenses and how they work.

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While this isn’t recreational reading, it is an important key to properly understanding the language. And as a reference tool, it will serve you for years to come

Bottom line: A great reference book with a detailed section on verb tenses.

7. Spanish Verb Tenses Workbook

Similar to the 501 Spanish Verbs (above) the Spanish Verb Workbook is a great way to get the hang of the verbs. While I haven’t gotten around to using this on, Dena uses it and likes it.

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Bottom line: It won’t get any more boring than this, but worth the time to learn the verb properly.

8. Easy Spanish Phrase Book: Over 770 Basic Phrases for Everyday Use

This handy little book is worth having just to stick in your briefcase or backpack. It covers most of the basic things you’ll need to say – and you mix and match the rest.

What I love about the book is its phonetic spelling of Spanish words. It really helps to get the sounds under control and lose the harshness of the Gringo Accent.

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Bottom line: At just two bucks, it’s hard to go wrong. It would be worth having one for every member of the family. We bought just one, and our new puppy went to town on it. You will learn from this little book.

9. Rosetta Stone Spanish (Latin America)

The first big purchase we made to help us learn Spanish was the full set of Rosetta Stone. It was pretty expensive and it is a good tool.

It makes you reason on sets of images – with no English used at all. While that sounds intimidating, it actually works pretty well.

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There are some drawbacks. For example, when a color is shown you’ll learn the Spanish word for that color – but depending on your screen settings, you might confuse purple with brown … as we did. 

Price: Depends on how many levels are purchased
Bottom line: An effective way to build vocabulary. Lessons are broken into bite sized pieces.

10. Powerglide Spanish Jr.

More than a year before we moved, we were looking for something help Drew learn Spanish. We wanted her to get a foundation in the language.

We heard the two milestones of 5 years and 10 years of age are important in terms of language learning. She loved this program and when we moved she knew more Spanish than we did.

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Bottom line: This is a great way to get your young kids involved in learning Spanish. The interactive story makes it more like entertainment than learning.

11. Rock N Learn Spanish Volumes 1 and 2 CD/Book

Don’t discount these sing-a-long cd’s as just for kids. While we did buy them for Drew, we can still remember the words and tunes to many of them.

Days of the week, months of the year, the alphabet, and names for family members are all taught here. There are a number of different disks. We bought two of them.

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Bottom line: Worth it, whether you have kids or not.

Best books for learning Spanish


More reading: Guide to The Best Way to Learn Spanish (Immersion, Books, Classes, Resources)

Your Turn: Books to Learn Spanish

What about you? What is your favorite book or course to learn Spanish? Please share your thoughts in the comments below:

Sandy Sheldon

Wednesday 7th of November 2018

I recently learned about a wonderful book that Spanish learners could use and it would help so much in understanding the ins and outs of using Spanish. It's a bit beyond the beginner level, but it sounds like most of the people commenting here could easily use it and love it. It's called: Breaking Out of Beginner's Spanish by Joseph J. Keenan. Thanks so much for all the information in your article. I'm arriving in Ecuador next week and plan to start taking some classes right away.

Robert Oliver

Tuesday 16th of May 2017

When people--usually adult or older teens-- approach me about learning a foreign language or ESL on their own for recommendations, I suggest that they visit a book store (B&N, others), and pull out (and replace) all the learn foreign language/ESL titles. Look through each one and set aside the ones that fit your personality, goals, learning style, and comfort level. Make sure that there is some sort of audio program available to help you with pronunciation and listening to the foreign language/ESL (either CDs, or access to an online website). Spend some time at the store with the titles before you buy them.

Mariel Olivera

Monday 10th of April 2017

If you are looking for customized Spanish lessons to get ready for a Spanish speaking country, then you should check my web page. I teach Spanish over Skype so you are more prepared in Latin America. I have lots of recommendations, as you can see on my site and also on LinkedIn. Please feel free to ask anything you want!


Monday 13th of February 2017

hello, experienced Spanish learners! I have been looking for the best European Spanish textbook. My problem is I am a Starter, I know only about 200 words, and my grammar sucks because I have been learning for only about a month. The other problem is many authors do not even mention whether they teach Latin or European Spanish. I wanted to go on working with the Madrigal's textbook, but i was lucky to read a comment here where they say the book is for the Latin Spanish. I need your help. Please, tell me what European Spanish textbook you liked most of all. I will subscribe to the answers to this comment and get your reply to my e-mail.

Dan Goodrick

Monday 2nd of January 2017

Great blog post. Thanks for sharing!

Bryan Haines

Monday 2nd of January 2017

Thanks Dan! All the best on your Spanish learning.