Kaitlyn Diehl works on staff at Back to Basics with Augustine Hills School and staff recruitment. She is the author of GREATER THAN A TOURIST- GRANADA ANDALUCÍA SPAIN: 50 Travel Tips from a Local, published in 2019.
In our modern world—where technology and travel allow for communication beyond borders—language learning has become increasingly important. As a Spanish teacher and tutor at Back to Basics, I’m a natural advocate. I’m also empathetic to the struggles of grasping a foreign language, as I was once a student myself.
When dabbling with “boring” grammar and vocab memorization—as we all must do—it’s imperative to focus on the outcome. Spanish is a language that’s alive with culture, slang, jokes, memes… and grammar is the steppingstone to unlocking this part of humanity. With enough focus, the preterit and subjunctive won’t be concrete structures for forming sentences; they’ll be keys to cultural exchange!
Here are 3 tips for improving Spanish fluency outside of the classroom:
1. Make the Word Become the Object.
This was the most pivotal discovery in my language advancement. Once you have developed enough vocabulary and grammatical knowledge, you need to turn the language into reality beyond your textbook. If the word pelota is just a translation for the word ball in English, then you will never react fast enough to become fluent. Pelota must become a pelota. When you see the round object used in soccer, or football, or tennis, you need to see a pelota—not a ball that happens to be called pelota in Spanish.
In the early stages of language learning, it is very difficult to take this leap. You will find yourself formulating a sentence in English, then translating each word into the Spanish equivalent. The problem with this format? Your brain is still making English the gateway to Spanish. To speak with speed and efficiency, it is important exclude English from your processing.
This is easier said than done, but one avenue is to start associating physical objects with their Spanish names. I recommend labeling common items in your household with sticky notes. Each time you wash your hands in the bathroom, you will be reminded to use “el lavabo,” or when you decide to sit down to watch some TV, you’ll need to use “el control remoto.” With enough direct association between the object and its Spanish name—skipping over the English translation—you’ll be on your way to fluid conversations!
2. Listen to the language.
I’m sure you’ve heard your teachers beat this one to death, but they weren’t exaggerating its importance. All languages have accents, nuances, and slang that can’t be learned in the classroom, so it’s important to attune your ear to these subtleties. Luckily, modern technology has sprung a variety of avenues for entertainment; you don’t have to sit through a telenovela or listen to mariachi if you want to practice your listening skills. Here are three of my favorite ways to improve language listening:
Would you believe it if I told you I know Parisians who attribute their near-perfect English to watching American & British Television? Marina and Victoria—two native French students—were taught within a classroom setting but informed me that their real grasp of the language came from pop culture. Yes, that’s right. They watched Game of Thrones and Empire for entertainment and improved their language skills as a biproduct! Learning doesn’t have to be boring! Native Hispanic/Latino television shows are on the rise with streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. La reina del sur and La casa de papal are just a few of today’s hit Spanish programs worth checking out.
This is another option growing increasingly accessible. Ever heard of “Despacito”—Daddy Yankee and Justin Bieber’s hit single? What about Shakira? Her hips don’t lie, but she’s also got dozens of other catchy tunes entirely sung in Spanish.
Great music is waiting beyond your language barriers! Here are some suggestions by genre:
I discovered this avenue of language learning recently, and flexibility has been the biggest benefit. Driving to work or school? Turn it on. At the gym? Time to practice some Spanish comprehension. It doesn’t have to feel like work, because podcasts can be spliced into your life when convenient.
For starters, I recommend listening to “Coffee Break Spanish.” Our bilingual host, Mark, gives lessons in short doses or “espresso shots”—as he likes to call them. Many of the lessons come from interviewing native speakers on the streets of Spain. After interviews he will break down colloquialisms, accents, and grammatical structures. This podcast is great for the language “immersion” experience if you can’t go abroad yet or don’t know any native speakers to practice with.
3. Read for Fun!
Reading is one of my favorite pastimes in English, but who says you can’t digest enjoyable books in other languages? This is one of the best ways to reaffirm your understanding of grammatical structures, as well as learn new vocabulary. Depending on the genre, you will gain access to technical or colloquial terminology that may not have been covered within the classroom.
For intermediate learners, I recommend reading stories you already know like Harry Potter or The Hunger Games; these books were written for a young adult audience and won’t incorporate words too far beyond your comprehension. If you do struggle with vocabulary, you can use context clues from your previous knowledge of the storyline to aid in understanding.
If Spanish comprehension continues to impede your ability to stay immersed in the story, there’s no harm in dusting off your Magic Treehouse or Junie B Jones collections. Books written for younger learners are shorter with easier arcs to follow, making them a great starting point.
Language learning isn’t just for K-12 students! We can customize language tutoring that works for learners of any age. Contact us at the link below or 302-594-0754 to get started.
Back to Basics Learning Dynamics provides exceptional 1:1 tutoring in over 60 subjects, from first grade reading help to AP Calculus, plus back to school organization, study habits, and everything in-between. When your child needs help with homework, essays, test preparation, back to school organization, or intensive private tutoring including credit recovery, count on our 30+ years of experience to help. Call us at 302-594-0754 or contact us at the link below to get started today!
“We reached out to Back to Basics for our son (6) when we thought he could use some extra help. I appreciate how they keep the lines of communication open so everyone stays on the same page. BTB worked with us to find the perfect tutor with a schedule that meets our needs. They were able to connect us with his current tutor, Teresa A****, and she is wonderful! She brings many years of knowledge and teaching experience and ensures that each session is fun and different. She even gives us ideas on fun learning activities that we can use to work with him at home. Our son looks forward to his sessions and has learned so much.” — Chrystynn Bowles
“The tutor my son has is patient, caring, reliable and very knowledgeable. I have been extremely satisfied with her services and highly recommend Back to Basics.” — Lori Spier
“Back to Basics has been great. From our initial phone call, we could not be happier. Our 6th grade daughter was struggling with Algebra. It was beyond my ability to help her and our tutor, Margie was very professional and helped my daughter immensely. She was professional, patient and kind and she is a great role model to my daughter as well – an accomplished woman with a background in engineering who is easy to work with.” — Ruth Gilbert
“My experience with Back to Basics has been wonderful. We contracted with a math and an English tutor for my daughter and both were excellent – kind, supportive, and most important, helped her effectively prepare for the ISEE high school entrance exam. The support staff were also very friendly and efficient. Highly recommended!” — Alisa Morkides
“Mr. Green has been a great help for our 10 yr old grandson. His math scores in math went up to grade level and his vocabulary, as well.” — Edwin Cartwright
“On behalf of our family, I am writing to both commend and thank you for the tutoring service you provided to our grandson David. With the help of Sonia Hewitt, David received an award at graduation as the most improved student. He ended 9th grade with mostly D’ and F’s. He graduated with all A’s! Sonia communicated his progress and needs to us and Angie always responded to my concerns as well. Continue your good work.” — Anna E. Krall
“My daughter started attending Back to Basics Private School during the third marking period this year (11th grade). I have to say they made all the difference for her. She was struggling at her old school (which was also private). Both her grades and her emotional well being have gone way up. My daughter used to dread going to school and would make every excuse to stay home. Now she she gets mad when I mentioned that the school year is almost over. She can’t believe the interest the teachers have taken in her. As she said to me “they really care about me”. This school as been for us a God send. I only wish I had found it sooner.” — James Tyre
“Back to Basics is a fantastic source for students to get the extra help they may need in any subject. Our tutor David Power is the best! He is so smart and so helpful. My sons respect him and trust him greatly to give them the guidance and help they may need with homework, study preparation, preparing for a test or quiz or just answering a question. He communicates very well with terrific input always. His emails to us are so helpful and insightful so that we can all help our student the best possible together. Your staff is always so helpful. Angie Carbine, in particular, always answers my questions and always gets back to me right away with the best help and support. We are very pleased and lucky to have such a top notch tutoring facility so close to home in our community.” — Joseph Wahl
“My daughter and I were very satisfied with the level of instruction provided by the tutor. It says a lot that my daughter was able to turn an “F” into an “A.” I think the combination of one on one instruction and the tutor’s knowledge of the subject matter made all the difference. I would highly recommend Back to Basics to any parent whose child is struggling in academics. I know that we will be using them in the future.” — Jim Tyre
“Caleb did receive ‘Most Improved in Math’ for the entire 8th grade during the graduation ceremony, which we certainly owe to you.” –Kerri Watson
“Candise is an excellent Tutor. Our daughter is finally passing her math classes, which she would never have achieved without the help of Candise! We are very grateful for Candise and Back to Basics.” –Lorraine Peterson
“Both of my children have had Mr. Power as their math tutor at different times. They have decided that he’s a math god. He has a gift for explaining the most complex math topics in a way that has enabled each to not only understand the information during the tutor session, but also retain the information and build upon it as each math chapter is covered at school. More than once on the day after a tutoring session with Mr. Power, they’ve been asked how to figure out a problem by one of the other students in their class – and they’ve been able to explain it to the other student and have been told, “Now I get it.” This is just one example of how effective Mr. Power is as a tutor.”
— Nathan Midgett
“After the PSAT, Christine was devastated. We knew she had a long way to go if she wanted to receive an acceptance to her dream college. Her tutors worked to help her overcome her anxiety and timing issues and she was diligent in completing all of her “homework” assignments. She took the test once and received a score of 2300 [combined score used for three subject areas in the 2015 test]. She also received her coveted acceptance to Georgetown University! Her SAT score absolutely pushed her over the top and it would not have been possible without Back to Basics!” —Susan McNeill
“THANK YOU!! I am so proud of Cassie and the work she did on her project. She even made the kluten all by herself. She could not have gotten the grades that she did without your assistance. Hiring you to work with Cassie was one of the best investments I’ve made!“
“…everyone is professional, knowledgeable, courteous. A first class organization….Thank You.”
— Mike Coumatos
“I was so pleased with my daughter’s experience with Back to Basics tutoring for the SAT. My daughter improved her score in Math SAT from the PSAT by over 200 points. Not only was she instructed in the math skills she needed to improve her score, but she also was instructed in general test taking strategies which helped in all of the sections of the test. I highly recommend Back to Basics SAT tutoring.”
— Sheila Mangan
“Ms. Lantz was a great tutor for our daughter. We had a wonderful experience. Our daughter’s confidence in math has gone up tremendously. We would definitely recommend Back to Basics to our friends.”
“Joy’s [SAT] scores went up almost 200 points in the short time Bob worked with her, and she got her Writing and English scores up to a level that she had good choices for colleges. She was just accepted at Syracuse in the Economics Department. Your help in getting us help for her at the 11th hour helped make that possible.”
“I have never before used the services of any tutor, however, I must tell you what an exceptional experience it has been to have Miss Keren work with our son Matthew. Keren is very warm, kind, patient, and effective teacher. Keren has gone above and beyond what I would expect any tutor to do. My son has made incredible progress since he has been working with her. Keren has been able to have Matthew do things for her when no one else could. My son has autism and a very short attention span. He gets frustrated very easily and will either have a tantrum or give up in tears. From the very first day Matthew began working with Karen he was like a different child. Karen has been able to have him work for up to 4 hours in a session with only very minimal breaks. Matthew has not once had a tantrum or showed any signs of frustration and is always happy to see her when she comes to work with him. Keren even attended my son’s IEP meeting with me to help advocate for what we all believed what was best for him…Keren truly is an exceptional person and teacher and I could never ask anyone for more than that.”
— Lori Newcomer
My daughter loves the one on one attention and [Back to Basics’ tutor] Winn makes learning fun!
“Mr. Duffy was an excellent match for Peter. He understood Peter’s limitations, discussed Peter’s limitations with teachers, and was able to have Peter’s assignment in history changed to something he could handle. Nobody had ever done that before.”
“Dave Powers is a great asset to Clem’s learning style. He is on target with his instruction and he’s a great support! In addition to my gratitude, I give him an A++!”
— Parent of a Back to Basics 1-on-1 tutoring student
“Just wanted to drop a quick note and let you know the Krystina raised her reading score from 560 to 720 and her writing score from 610 to 760 after 16 hours of reading tutoring. This has opened up multiple scholorship opportunities for her. Her SAT went from an 1880 to a 2190, and her ACT went from a 28 to a 33. Many thanks for the tutor she had. Definately well worth the investment. She already has a full tuition + scholorship to Alabama.”
— Parent of a Back to Basics SAT Prep student
“We wanted to let you know how pleased and appreciative we are regarding Sean’s progress during this school year.
Sean’s academic growth in all subject areas has been a true delight to witness and simultaneously has caused his self-confidence to soar. He enjoys the challenges of his school days, is proud to be learning a second language, and eagerly completes home assignments.
The staff has been wonderful in recognizing Sean’s learning strengths, while also helping him grow enormously in the areas in which he previously struggled. He is now a motivated learner and truly happy with the social approach of the program this year.
John and I extend a heartfelt thanks to you and your entire staff. We highly recommend the program every chance we get. Bravo!”
— Eileen O’Shaughnessy-Coleman
“It was June of our daughter’s sophomore year in high school and we didn’t know where to send her for her junior year. We could not work with the public school system to get our daughter some of the special needs that she required. A half a semester at a private school was equally frustrating. The teachers and staff were not capable of dealing with a child that did not fit the mold.
When I called Back to Basics to ask about tutoring, I was put through to Beverly. What a godsend! She understood what we had experienced in the traditional school systems and I know we had found the right place. The entire staff was very supportive. The teachers were excellent and really boosted our daughter’s self-esteem. The attention, nurturing and education she received were phenomenal. Our daughter completed both her junior and senior years at Back to Basics and even received significant scholarships from four different colleges.”
— Parent of a Back to Basics K-12 Private School student (name withheld upon request)
“Thank you from myself and my grandson. After a previous experience with another tutor program, I found Back to Basics very relaxing, and the tutor very comforting. My grandson totally loved the experience at your office and his tutor.”
— Cynthia Stewart
“Thank you for the wonderful work you are doing with our son. We are thrilled to see his self-confidence returning and his grades improving. It is a relief to know he’s getting the best help possible. If you ever need someone to talk with parents about the quality of your services, I hope you’ll call on us.”
— Charlene Bradley
“Both of my sons attended Back to Basics. I thought you might like to know that one now has a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree and the other is a Management Information Systems graduate… I feel part of the success they have enjoyed is due directly to the instruction they received from Back to Basics.”
— Mrs. Cook
“My comments apply to all of Henry’s teachers. They’ve been wonderfully supportive and terrific with him. He is very happy there.”
— J. Mette
“Both of our sons have been fortunate enough to work with all the wonderful staff whose warmth and caring has brought out the best in them. The have learned more at Back to Basics than they could have possibly learned in any other school. The opportunity to choose their own courses made learning an enjoyable experience for them.”
— Mr. and Mrs. Davis
“Just wanted to share with you how proud Angel is of his report card. He has shown it to the neighbor (one of the heads at Wilmington Friends), his tennis coach, his therapist, and my parents. He now has his own copy in his bag. Watching Angel share the results of his work is like one of those credit card commercials – priceless!”
— Curt and Jackie (Back to Basics Private School parents)
“His attitude towards school is completely changing around. He realizes teachers care and are truly interested in his future success.”
— Mrs. Scalia (Back to Basics Private School parent)
“On behalf of our family, I am writing to both commend and thank you for the tutoring service you provided to our grandson David. With the help of Sonia Hewitt, David received an award at graduation as the most improved student. He ended 9th grade with mostly D’ and F’s. He graduated with all A’s! Sonia communicated his progress and needs to us and Angie always responded to my concerns as well. Continue your good work.”
— Anna E. Krall
” I sent [tutor] Gerald a thank you email because I wanted to let him know how much I appreciated him helping my daughter. When Gerald took over my daughter had a 69 avg. So it was no small feat to end the last marking period with an 82. My only regret is that he did take over sooner. In my opinion Back to Basics has some of the best teachers my daughter has ever had.”
— Jim T.
“[Back to Basics’ tutor] Sharon does a great job. She has worked with the cadets for three years now and they love her. They see true value and definitely feel that she helps them a lot.”
— Delaware Military Academy
“I found the staff cooperative and someone was always available to answer any question I may have had. It made my job easier as the program coordinator not to have to worry about the quality of the tutors or to supply any needed substitutes. Working with Back to Basics and Beverly Stewart has been one of the better educational experiences I have had during the 35 years I spent working in an elementary school.”
— Lorayne Titter, Program Coordinator, Extended Day
“As a teacher, I know that when I recommend parents to Back to Basics, they will be pleased with what they have to offer to meet the needs of their child.”
— Ms. Madson
“I have been loyal supporter of Back To Basics for more than two decades!”
— Italo Carrieri-Russo
“Back to Basics had a real challenge in teaching me a foreign language. As a University of Delaware student in her mid-sixties, they enabled me to receive a B+ each semester by providing excellent instruction. They listen to your needs concerning the time and place that is best for you to learn; they act on that need to match you with an excellent instructor and then, to keep their standards high, they ask for your feedback. Whether a person is six or sixty, I am confident that Back to Basics will make it enjoyable to learn.”
— Judy Harper
“Thank you for letting me come back to the greatest school on earth. You set me up with all the things that I needed and it worked out wonderfully. It helped get me where I needed to be.”
— Michael Lester, Back to Basics Private School Student
“I intend to put a “TOP” score in each area! Thank you for the Praxis I pre-writing assignment tips. I went from a failing score to a 176. The passing score is 173. You guys are great!”
— Samuel Mencher
“I would highly recommend Back to Basics to anyone who is struggling with any particular topic in any level of education. I was finishing up my degree at a local college and needed to pass a class in “Inferential Statistics” in order to graduate. I realized I wasn’t doing well and I needed help…
— Callie S., Back to Basics Private School Student
— Brian J. Crowley
TUTOR & STAFF REVIEWS
“For more than ten years, I have had the privilege of working in an educational institution which embraces high academic standards and lovingly tells every student who walks through the door that success is within their grasp. I have witnessed countless student transformations focused not just on academic achievement, but self-esteem and awareness that learning is a lifelong process. The compassionate and dedicated staff led by a tireless and respected leader has come to be synonymous with excellence and success. I am honored to be part of the Back to Basics Learning Dynamics family.”
— Elizabeth Roberts, Instructor
“I have been an instructor of mathematics, physics, and chemistry at Back to Basics for 11 years. In that time, I have had the pleasure of instructing over 300 students in a 1-on-1 format. My students have thrived with the individual attention. I have witnessed their blooming confidence and enjoyment in being able to learn effectively. For me, each student’s instruction has been a unique journey. It feels good knowing I have definitely made a significant contribution to each student’s education and well-being.”
— Dave Power, Tutor
“For the past several years, I have had the honor of representing Back to Basics Learning Dynamics as a tutor, interpreter, and translator. Whether inspiring a love for Spanish in the hearts of students through one-on-one tutoring, bridging communication gaps at parent-teacher conferences, or producing high-quality translations of critical documents, I have enjoyed a sense of purpose and happiness in meeting the standards of academic excellence that Beverly and the Back to Basics family have been demonstrating since 1985. I am grateful to be a part of the family and for the opportunities for professional growth that I’ve enjoyed as a result. These experiences have enhanced my individual performance, expanded my cultural awareness, and deepened my knowledge in the fields of education and translation. Whether working locally or remotely, Back to Basics has been the best career choice for me.”
— Luz E. Digsby, Tutor, Interpreter and Translator
“I have been a tutor, translator and interpreter at Back to Basics for 14 years. Back to Basics began small in a crowded field of translating and interpreting but today has a large portion of the market in Delaware in schools, hospitals, medical facilities and government agencies. I am proud to have played a small part in providing services to international families who need our services. I believe that such services are not only necessary but helpful to the families as well as the institution. Beverly has set a high bar of professionalism and skill attainment for her tutors, translators and interpreters to meet. She has provided certification opportunities as well as professional development so that each translator and interpreter has the best and highest skills he/she has the possibility of attaining. I am happy to be part of an organization that is at once so professional but also so caring. ”
— Sara Nehra, Tutor, Interpreter and Translator