Friday, May 15, 2009

universal language

Considering that we're "just" a small little village located in rural Bolivia, there are quite a few languages spoken here (i.e. Spanish, English, Quechua, Aymara, German, French, and Italian).  This week, with the arrival of the South Dakota State University contingent (several professionals who are participating in an exchange between SDSU and the UAC-CP), we have the murmurs of yet another language on campus--the Latin-based, scientific one spoken by scientists throughout the world.

SDSU professor Dr. Gary Larson points out a plant to UAC-CP professor Ing. Desiderio Flores. The men, obvious agronomists at heart, share only the common language of the sciences.
As I've stated before and will unequivocally restate again: I am no scientist. Which also means I'm often not much help when it comes to interpreting for visiting scholars.  "I don't even know these words in English!" I tell our students.  "Let alone in Spanish." The names of species and families and genus--all those things I learned about during my freshman year of high school Life Science--go way over my head.

But what I've discovered is that I don't need to have the scientific vocabulary.  I fill in the missing pieces of common verbs and nouns and then let the science-types fill in the blanks with the scientific names that, with a little tweaking of accents and vowel sounds, are really the same throughout the world.

Ing. Desidero Flores climbs a steep embankment and passes off a leaf sample to Dr. Gary Larson.  

Yesterday I accompanied long-time UAC-CP Agronomy professor Ing. Desiderio Flores and Dr. Gary Larson, a botanist from SDSU, along the road that leads to the Puerta del Viento (Door of the Wind) located on the ridge above the College.  As we meandered, one man would excitedly point to a plant and say a word I didn't understand (a family or genus name?) and the other would nod his head...sometimes in agreement, sometimes in doubt.  

The whole while, as I walked in between the accomplished Agronomy professors, filling in the small details of colors, shapes, seed and flower types, local usage, etc., I was most amazed that while neither spoke the other's language, they were able to communicate their shared scientific verbage and their common love for all that is the plant world. Two men with seemingly very little in common able to share their wonder and awe in a language that I doubt I'll ever speak.

1 comment:

Sandra Jensen said...

Hi Sarah - I was very excited to find your blog! I am KC Jensen's wife - at home here in Volga, South Dakota. I couldn't sleep and spent a few hours tonight reading about the college. I love to look at the pictures posted about the college and the Bolivian people. I really look forward to all KC's stories when he gets home. Tell KC it's a good thing he didn't finish planting our garden before he left - we are expecting a frost tonight! Best Wishes - Sandy Jensen