Photo by: UC San Diego Athletics
Rebecca (right) with her parents, Ana and Scott, and older sister, Oneida.

For San Diego Native Rebecca Whitney, Spanish is Hardly a Foreign Language

UCSD

Related Links

Triton volleyball player Rebecca Whitney has lived in San Diego since birth and she's spoken Spanish for almost as long. Her first language, she began learning it at just nine months old and she still speaks it every day.

A freshman outside hitter, Whitney is majoring in Law in Society and is in Marshall College.

We recently spoke with Rebecca about her family, her multi-cultural upbringing, and being taught Spanish at home during the first years of her life.

Thanks to Rebecca for taking the time to do the interview and translate it to Spanish as well!

------

Have you lived in San Diego your whole life?
I was born at Tri-City Hospital in Oceanside, but my home is in Vista and I have lived there my entire life. It aided in giving me a cultural upbringing because Vista is a very diverse city.
 
What schools did you attend growing up?
I went to Alamosa Elementary School and Roosevelt Middle School, which were both in Oceanside, but for high school I attended Vista High.
 
How did you get into volleyball?
I got into volleyball in seventh grade because a family friend was trying out for our middle school team and I was your typical tall, athletic teenager, so she dragged me along with her. I didn’t want to wear the short spandex and long socks, but as I slowly went through the tryout process I remember going home and not being able to stop talking about everything volleyball.
 
Tell us about your parents' backgrounds.
My dad Scott was born in Illinois, but grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota. He attended college at North Dakota State, where he earned a degree in Engineering. He worked for the Peace Corps and went to Guatemala to serve, which is where he learned Spanish. Following that, he lived in Tijuana, Mexico.

My mom Ana, on the other hand, is quite different. She was born and raised in Sinaloa de Leyva, Mexico (her father is Mexican and her mother is Spanish) on a small ranch with cows and an adobe-like home. Growing up, she only went to fifth grade because she had to help her father raise and support the family of eight. At 20, she decided she wanted a better life for herself and moved to America, joining other family members already living there.
 
Where did your parents meet?
Although many people think my parents would have met in Tijuana, they actually met here in the United States. Both of them worked for a very wealthy woman. My mom would cook for her and my father would play guitar. One day, my dad played guitar for my mom and the rest was history.
 
How old were you when you became fluent in Spanish?
I could hold a conversation on my own in Spanish at the age of five, but my first words were in Spanish at nine months. It was the first language that would come to mind when I was speaking.
 
How old were you when you became fluent in English?
I became fluent in English at about the age of four, but began to speak it at the age of 19 months.
 
What were the main reasons that your parents decided to have you learn Spanish first?
It was mostly because my mom didn’t become a good speaker of English until I was in fourth grade. Yes, she could speak English, but it was very broken. Another big reason was because in the American school system, English is already taught to you, so I would benefit much more from learning Spanish at home.
 
Did you find any challenges as a youngster that came with learning Spanish first?
One of my earliest memories was calling my mom “mama” unlike the other children at school, which generated a lot of funny faces. I also remember knowing how to count in Spanish before English, so in class I would mix the numbers up by using both languages.
 
What are some of the positives that have come from learning Spanish?
Learning Spanish has benefited me in many instances. For example, taking a language course in high school was a breeze since I already knew Spanish. Also, I have been in situations where someone only spoke Spanish, so I would either translate for the English speaker or reassure the Spanish speaker that I understood what they were saying.
 
Do you use Spanish on a regular basis?
I speak Spanish every single day, whether it be with my parents or simply because my friends think it sounds cool. I love integrating the language into my everyday life!

------

¿Naciste en Vista y has vivido allí tu vida entera?
Nací en Tri- CIty hospital en Oceanside, pero mi casa está en Vista y he vivido allí por toda mi vida. Viviendo allí me ha ayudado crecer con munchas culturas al mi rededor porque es una ciudad con muncha diversidad.
 
¿A cuáles escuelas fuiste cuando estabas creciendo?
Fui a Alamosa para la escuela primaria y Roosevelt para la escuela intermediada, que son en Oceanside, pero para la escuela secundaria fui a Vista High.
 
¿Como empezaste a jugar voleibol?
Empecé a juagar voleibol cuando estuve en el séptimo grado porque una amiga de familia estaba probando de jugar también y me llevo. Yo era tu chica estereotipada alta y atlética. No quise ponerme los chores cortos ni los calcetines largos, pero ya que comenzó las pruebas, y regrese a casa, me recuerdo no pude parar de hablar del deporte.
 
¿Qué es el historial de tus padres? ¿Dónde crecieron?
Mi padre nació en Illinois, pero creció en St. Paul Minnesota y fue a North Dakota State para el colegio donde el trabajo para el título de ingeniero. Después el trabajo para el Peace Corps y servio en Guatemala (donde aprendió el Español). Luego movió a Tijuana.

Al contrario, mi mama tuvo una vida muy diferente. Ella creció en Sinaloa de Leyva México (su padre es mexicano y su madre es castellano) en un rancho que era muy grande con vacas y una casita de adobe. Creciendo, mi mama nomas termino el cinto grado porque tenía que ayudar a su papa criar sus hermanos y trabajar para recibir dinero para la familia de ocho. Después, decidido que quería una vida mejor asique vino a los estados unidos donde reunió con familia que ya estaba aquí.
 
¿Donde se conocieron tus padres?
Aunque munchas personas piensan que mis padres probablemente se conocieron en Tijuana, mis padres se conocieron en los Estados Unidos. Los dos trabajaron para una señora rica. Mi papa toco guitara para ella y mi mama cocino. Un día mi papa toco guitara para mi mama y el resto fue historia.
 
Cuantos años tenías cuando pudiste hablar Español?
Pude hablar en una conversación cuando yo tuve cinco años, pero mis primer palabras eran en Español a la edad de nueve meses y era el primer lenguaje que vino a mente cuando tuve que hablar.
 
Cuantos años tenías cuando pudieras hablar Inglés?
Pude hablar Inglés cuando tuve cuatro años, pero empecé mis primer palabras a la edad de diez y nueve meses.
 
¿Cuáles eran las razones principales de la decisión de tus padres en ensenarte hablar Español primero?
La razón principal era que mi mama no pudo hablar Inglés bueno hasta que yo estaba en el cuarto grado. Si, ella pudo hablar Inglés pero era muy quebrado. Otra razón era que yo iba aprender Inglés en el sistema Americano de escuela asique había gran beneficio en aprender el Español primero en mi crecimiento. 
 
¿Has visto algunos retos cuando fuiste joven en aprendiendo el Español primero?
Habías munchas retas. Mi memoria más temprano era algo tan fácil como llamando mi mama “mama” que era muy diferente a los demás chamacos en la escuela asique siempre agarre caras raras. También me requerido sabiendo como contar en Español antes del Ingles asique en la clase siempre mezcle los dos idiomas.
 
¿Cuales eran algunos de los positivos que sacaste en aprender primero el Español?
Aprendiendo primero el Español me ha salvado en muchas situaciones. Por ejemplo, me ayudo cuando estuve tomando un idioma en la escuela secundaria. También he podido ayudar a otros en situaciones donde alguien nomas hablo Español. Yo pudiera traducir por ellos en los dos idiomas o también asegurarles que yo si entendí lo que estaban tratando de decir.

¿Usas español día a día?
Hablo Español cada día. Sea mis padres o simplemente porque mis amigos piensan que tiene un sonido interesante, me encanta entregar el lenguaje en mi vida cada dia.

------

About UC San Diego Athletics
With 30 national team championships, nearly 150 individual titles, and the top student-athlete graduation rate among Division II institutions in the United States, the UC San Diego intercollegiate athletics program annually ranks as one of the most successful in the country. The Tritons sponsor 23 intercollegiate sport programs that compete on the NCAA Division I and II levels and, in the summer of 2020, will transition into full Division I status as a member of the Big West Conference. UC San Diego student-athletes exemplify the academic ideals of one of the world's pre-eminent institutions, graduating at an average rate of 91 percent. A total of 80 Tritons have earned Academic All-America honors, while 36 have earned prestigious NCAA Post-Graduate Scholarships. In competition, more than 1,300 UC San Diego student-athletes have earned All-America honors.

Follow the Tritons
For complete coverage and information regarding UC San Diego Athletics, follow the Tritons online at UCSDTritons.com and through social media on Twitter (@UCSDTritons), Instagram (@UCSDTritons) and Facebook (UCSDTritons). For more information on UC San Diego Women's Volleyball, follow on Instagram (@UCSD_wvb).

More From UCSD
W Volleyball