Ivana Webb pursues her life through mixed cultures


When junior Ivana Webb moved with her family from Mexico to the United States, she had no ability to comprehend the English language.

But when she was thrown into a preschool class with only English-speaking students and teachers, the second language came easily to young Ivana. She didn’t realize how much knowing two languages would help her as she ages and travels through life.

Surrounded by her Spanish-speaking family, Ivana knew nothing of what her future life in the U.S. would have in store.

“I was born in Mexico, and I lived there until I was three,” Ivana said. “My little brother, Collin, was also born there, so Spanish was the first language we learned because it is all that we heard living in Mexico.”

It was then that Ivana and her family made the decision to move back to the U.S. Alongside her, Ivana’s mother, father, and brother packed their belongings and moved back to her father’s homeland.

“My dad speaks Spanish too, but he was born in the U.S.,” Ivana said. “He moved to Mexico for nine years and met my mom because they were next door neighbors. Then after my brother and I were born, we moved back when Collin was a baby because of my dad’s job.”

Not long after the family’s move back to America, Ivana was enrolled in preschool alongside many other English speaking children. Although Ivana only knew the Spanish language, she was able to pick up English within a few weeks.

“My mom said that when I started going to preschool here, I just picked up English in a couple of weeks,” Ivana said. “Everyone I was around was speaking it, and it was all I really started hearing.”

Although Ivana was slowly becoming a bilingual child, she never stopped speaking Spanish at her home and with her extended family members.

Ivana’s mother’s side of her family is all living throughout Mexico, so she has to keep up her language fluency if she wishes to communicate with her loved ones.

“My mom’s entire family lives in Mexico [and] so do [her] brothers and their kids and my aunts,” Ivana said. “We haven’t gone to Mexico in three years so I haven’t seen my family for a while, but they do not know any English.”

The family member Ivana sees most often is her grandmother. She will come from Mexico once or twice each year, and her mother makes sure Ivana and her family spend the most time possible with her.

Family is much more than a word. It is a feeling of warmth and love that neither time nor distance can change.

Although her grandma only speaks Spanish, Ivana’s ability to comprehend two languages helps her greatly when communicating with her family members.

“My grandma will come to stay with us from Mexico, and she’s here for a long time when she visits,” Ivana said. “Her visits are about two weeks, but I only see her like once or twice a year. She wants me to spend [more] time with her since she is getting older.”

Having the ability to speak Spanish not only helps Ivana at home with communication but also helps her at school. Words she may not know in English can be inferred from the words she knows in Spanish, and she was able to test out of multiple Spanish classes.

“Sometimes Spanish words sound a lot like English words, and sometimes I don’t know the word in English, but I’ll know it in Spanish,” Ivana said. “I can just kind of infer what a word actually is, so that has helped me in my English classes.”

Outside of school, Ivana has found herself in situations where she holds the ability to help others who may be struggling to understand another language.

Wherever she may be, she can communicate with Spanish speakers and help guide them through difficult situations that they may not understand.

“In Florida one time, I was ordering food at a buffet, so you would just go to the cash register and pay,” Ivana said. “I was there, and there was a man who didn’t know how much money something was. The cashier person was really trying to explain it to him, but he didn’t understand so I helped him out and he thanked me a lot.”

Being able to help others outside of her immediate family is one of the things Ivana is most proud of. Retaining two languages is able to help her greatly in the outside world, and it is something she wants to pass down to her future children.

“Being bilingual definitely helps me communicate with other people,” Ivana said. “Being able to help them out makes me pretty proud, and it’s nice to be the one who can help.”