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Are you someone who tries to learn the language of a country you’re visiting? Personally I think it’s important to know at least the basics. Learning “Hello”, “Goodbye” and “Thank You” is easy to do and makes a big difference. But, if you want to take your language learning further then why not invest in some great language learning books?
I still strongly believe that the best way to learn a new language is to go and live in a country that speaks it. However, I understand this isn’t always possible. Even if you can move abroad you might want to have a basic understanding to make those first few weeks easier. That’s where language books come in handy.
Whether you’re learning (or trying to learn) French, Spanish, Mandarin or German or another language, check out these language books below that will help you get a grip on the grammar and vocabulary. Before you know it you’ll be conversing with the barista as you wait for your coffee!
Best language books for learning French
Grammaire progressive du français
This series of books is great for learning French although best if you’ve been learning French for a little while and consider yourself more than a beginner.
This particular version, aimed at intermediates, includes 680 exercises and an audio addition which will help you get a grasp of all those tricky French rules.
Believe me I know how tricky they can be – my degree is in French and I spent years (and still do) stumbling over which tense to use!
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Bescherelle Complete Guide to Conjugating 12000 French Verbs
Learning lists of verb conjugations isn’t exactly the most fun but it’s useful if you’re taking French exams and tests. It’s the things you’ll be marked on. Plus, if you want to take your French beyond conversational you’ll need to know this.
The Bescherelle got me through my A-Levels and degree and it’s used all over France too. It’s a bit daunting at first but it’s super, super useful if you’ve got to do some French writing and just can’t think how a certain verb should be conjugated!
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Berlitz Self Teacher for French
This French language learning book has been around since 1949. It’s still one of the most popular self teaching French books. It doesn’t just focus on phrasebook sentences but helps you speak and read French quickly.
Some of the phrases are a bit dated and not quite as conversational as a more up-to-date book but it’s still worthwhile investing in if you’re keen to learn French quickly!
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Easy French Step by Step
If knowing all aspects of French from the beginning to advanced is important to you then this “Easy French Step by Step” book is for you.
It’ll take you through the basics of French grammar with both an explanation and exercises to help cement it in your head. It also covers 300 of the most common verbs with their conjugations. The one weakness is that it’s not great for vocabulary but that can be helped by reading a book you’re already familiar with in French!
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Mastering French vocabulary
Want to know the words you’ll most commonly come across while in France? Then check out this book to up your French vocabulary.
This book is covers the 3,000 words that French speakers use daily. Then, once you’ve mastered these there’s an additional 1,950 included too. The vocabulary is split up into 35 different groups which makes it quick and easy to look up a word you don’t know.
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Best books for learning Spanish
Madrigal’s Magic Key To Spanish
Margarita Madrigal wrote this book in the 1950’s but it’s still considered to be a great Spanish learning book. Any list of Spanish language learning is bound to include ‘Madrigal’s Magic Key to Spanish’ and that’s because it makes everything super easy to understand.
In this language learning book you’ll get 45 lessons which includes vocabulary pronunciation and writing practice. This all helps you to speak, read, write and think in Spanish which is what you need to be able to do to consider yourself fluent! You might not even realise you’re learning a language by using this book as it makes everything so very simple.
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A Good Spanish Book: Basic Spanish Course for Beginners
This book is exactly what it says on the cover. The book is up to date having been published in 2017 and is easy to follow and understand too.
If you’re an absolute beginner to Spanish this book will help you navigate your way through the language.
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Despite being a Portuguese text originally, El Alquimista (The Alchemist) is a great Spanish book if to read if you’re trying to improve, or learn, Spanish.
The book follows a young pastor who has a repetitive dream. In this dream a hidden treasure lies close to the pyramids of Egypt and he decides to follow it. On this journey he confronts the signals of God and the mysterious soul of the world, where anyone can enter and hear his own heart. El Alquimista is considered to be one of the oldest and most secret arts of humanity.
This book is great for those new to Spanish as the language is pretty simply and direct. direct and simple language.
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Breaking Out of Beginner’s Spanish
This book has been around for over 20 years and is filled with over 236 pages of Spanish exercises to help you master the language. It’s been out so long that it tends to be considered a Spanish learning classic and covers everything from pronunciation, verb usage, and common grammatical mistakes. It also takes you through the subtleties of addressing other people and words that look alike in both languages. And if that wasn’t enough you’ll learn about inadvertent obscenities and intentional swearing too!
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Pimsleur Spanish Basic Course – Level 1 Lessons 1-10 CD
Another of Pimsleur’s language learning books is listed below. What you should know is that Pimsleur knows what he’s doing when it comes to language learning.
This collection of CDs (also available via Audible) is often considered the best Spanish language learning audio.
There’s also a free lesson you can download if you’re not sure whether this is for you when you sign up to audible.
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Best language books for learning German
Everything Learning German Book
Learning to sprechen Sie Deutsches can be super fun – especially if you’re an English speaker since the two are so closely related! This German learning book helps you make sense of German (and its crazy long words) in no time.
With this guide, you will make sense of German in no time thanks to the easy to understand exercises and lessons. There’s also an audio section to help you get to grips with pronunciation.
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This German learning book focuses on German grammar and is more of a traditional approach to language learning than some of the other books in this article. That isn’t a bad thing as if you want to take your language skills to the next level you do (unfortunately) need to know all about grammar rules!
There are exercises and revision sections which will help you practice what you’ve learned. In addition there are also some reading and comprehension exercises which I think are super useful!
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501 German Verbs
If you’re studying German in some capacity then this book will prove super useful! You’ll be flicking through it all the time just like I used to with my Bescherelle during my French degree.
501 German Verbs covers, as you’d expect from the title, 501 German verbs! These are the most commonly used German verbs which are arranged alphabetically conjugated in all tenses and forms.
The book also has common idioms and example sentences to demonstrate how to use each verb. It’s great for times when you have to write in German and can’t remember a certain verb tense!
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English Grammar for students learning German
The title of this book might be slightly confusing but it’s super useful for whatever language you’re learning. It covers English grammar, the stuff we’re not really taught at school but struggle with when it comes to learning a language. You know, things like the subjunctive, subordinate clauses and indirect objects.
There are other versions of this book for different languages so it’s worth taking a look if you’re learning Spanish and/or French too!
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Jens & Jakob
Jens & Jakob was created for the times you’re bored of reading German textbooks. The ones with silly stories and boring characters. It’s a textbook based on a coherent story instead of dull dialogues, which starts very simply, but develops into a fascinating novel. You’ll want to learn German to find out how it ends!
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Best language learning books for Mandarin
Thom and I bought Chineasy ahead of our trip to China and we loved it. It breaks down Chineasy characters into super easy to remember steps. Most Chinese characters are built out of roughly 100 building blocks. The book takes you through a program that correlated each character and prioritised the most common and useful elements. Each character is designed to reflect its etymology and meaning. It’s not only a more fun way to learn a language but a far easier way too!
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This textbook series is in its third edition and is used by schools all across China. It takes you through vocab and grammar in easy to digest chunks. It also includes cultural material that you’ll no doubt find interesting.
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Chinese Made Easy
Through this series of 5 books, Chinese Made Easy takes you through about 1,700 characters and phrases that’ll help you pass Chinese language exams such as SAT II, AP, or IB.
The sections are arranged in a logical order and characters are presented in both traditional and simplified forms. You’ll also cover some Mandarin grammar, characters, and vocabulary.
In addition to the textbook there’s a workbook where you can put what you’ve learnt into practice.
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Learning Chinese Characters
This Chinese learning book covers you right from the beginning to an intermediate level. You’ll learn the most basic 800 Chinese characters through storytelling. If you’re taking a Madarin exam, the AP Chinese or HSK levels 1-3 for example, then this book will help you get through them.
The characters covered in this Chinese learning book are simplified characters but it also includes some traditional characters too.
If you’re focusing on your Chinese speaking then you’ll appreciate the pronunciation guide. On top of this there’s a stroke count guide which will help you learn to write these Madarin characters.
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Gordon & Li Li: Words for Everyday
In these books the two characters, Gordon and Li Li, are cousins. Gordon lives in Brooklyn and Li Li is from Beijing. They’re excited to learn about each other’s cities but Gordon speaks English and Li Li speaks Madarin.
The books take a simple but colourful and fun approach to Mandarin. Whilst aimed at children they’re great for beginners to Madarin. Each page displays a word in English and Mandarin, and included in the back is an index of all the words and the corresponding Chinese characters.
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Best general language learning books
You might think that general language learning books aren’t very useful. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Reading a book that doesn’t deal with a specific language can be super useful.
These books tend to deal with the big picture. There are a set of theories, tools and techniques for learning a language which apply whichever language you’re trying to learn.
This could be memory enhancing tips or learning approaches you haven’t come across before. Once you know more about these it means you’ll be better equipped to tackle French or German.
On top of this a general language learning book covers the mistakes other people make when learning a language and ensures you don’t make the same.
General language books also help prepare you for the difficulties that come with learning a language. You know, the times where you just cannot get the hang of those irregular verb forms, or weird tenses.
Five of the best general language learning books
How to learn a foreign language
This book is the Godfather of general language learning books. It focuses on the three elements of language; pronunciation, vocabulary and grammar. The author, Dr. Paul Pimsleur believes that many standard teaching approaches won’t help you learn a language and so teaches you other, more engaging, ways.
This book centres around the listening and responding part of language learning and teaches some effective vocab learning tips. These tips help you put new words into your long term memory.
This sounds to good to be true but the book has been around for decades so it stood the test of time!
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Fluent Forever: How to learn any language fast and never forget it
Wyner, the author of this book, had learnt six languages fluently by the time he was 60. You’ve got to agree that’s pretty impressive!
The book works to get your ears to tune into the natural symphonies of your target language. Then, it helps you contort your tongue in the same way that opera singers and actors do. In doing so you’ll soon be nailing those rolled ‘R’s and the like! Knowing how to make these sounds helps recognise them when you hear them and before you know it you’ll be on the way to fluency.
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Learn any foreign language fast – The Ultimate Guide to Speed Up Your Language Learning Curve By Tricking Your Brain
Since you’re reading my blog you’re probably into travelling too. In that case you’ll appreciate this book by Taggart. She’s a traveller who shares her techniques for learning languages as she travels.
She proves that it’s faster to learn a language than you first think. Especially when you’re travelling and need to learn in order to get by.
This language learning book focuses on creative and fun ways to remember your target language. Instead of grammar books and vocabulary lists you’ll learn to see radio, movies and novels as ways to learn your language and all of those are undoubtedly more fun!
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Fluent in Three months
The largest language learning blog on the internet, Fluent in 3 Months is behind this language learning book. It’s about “language hacking” where you learn a language quickly and become sufficient.
In this book you’ll go over the fears language learners typically have and it’ll motivate you to reach your goal. It also covers methods, tips and tricks for learning a language that your teacher probably didn’t teach you.
The introduction alone will get you re-energised and motivated where you’ve become frustrated and stuck with your language learning.
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The Harry Potter Series
Reading a book in a foreign language that you’re familiar with can really help when learning a language. Whether you’ve read the English version or have seen the films, chances are you’ll be familiar with the storyline of Harry Potter and that makes it a great book to tackle when learning a foreign language.
If you don’t want to read you could also try watching the films in a foreign language. Try it first with subtitles and then without but make sure you listen to what the characters are saying in order to pick up the words!
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