“tu habes quinque denarios. tu das duos denarios mihi. quanta habet tibi?”

The vast majority of people, if asked this question, would probably look puzzled and, quite appropriately, ask you to speak English. However, for a Latin student participating in Certamen, the Latin variation of Jeopardy, it is just a simple math problem.

Certamen is one of the most eagerly anticipated competitions at JCL (Junior Classical League) State and National Conventions. Each high school (and middle school, for those that offer Latin) sends one four-person team in each grade level to battle with other teams in a fierce conflict of wits and speed. In a typical round of Certamen, three teams square off with each other. They must fight to answer 20 toss-up questions, which any team can answer, each followed by 2 bonus questions, which can only be answered by the team that correctly answered the toss-up question. Each toss-up question is worth 10 points, and each bonus question is worth 5 points. Questions range from the silly (What hit song by Katy Perry might the Romans call “Pars Mihi?”) to the hardcore (What battle, fought in 31 AD, gave Octavian a decisive victory over Marc Antony?).

Although Certamen is a serious workout for both one’s brain and thumbs, it also allows Latin students a unique opportunity to interact and gain deeper insight into the Latin language and culture. Students who participate in Certamen not only experience a benefit in their Latin class, but also possess greater knowledge about Latin as well as improved reflexes and stronger thumbs. Lastly, Certamen also enables students to interact with people from other schools in a friendly yet competitive environment.

Which is exactly what teams from 5 middle schools and 15 high schools across California were doing in the California Regional Certamen Rounds (CARCER) on Saturday, February 16, 2013. Teams in Southern California met at The Willows School in Culver City, while those in Northern California met at St. Ignatius College Preparatory in San Francisco. Despite their many differences, all teams were the same in one aspect; they all sought to place in the top nine spots in their respective grade level, which would allow them to qualify for the semi-finals competition at State Convention in March. For a grueling three rounds of mental strain and button mashing, each team tried to get as many points as possible in a frenzied effort to seal its advance to state. And then, as soon as it began, CARCER was over. Some teams went home in triumph, others in defeat, but all went home with a greater appreciation for the language that they love to learn.

Oh, and the question above? It translates into: “You have five coins. You give two coins to me. How many coins do you have?” Obviously, the answer is “Tres” (Three).

Article written by Charlie Xu.