Lingua Latina vivit! For those who are convinced Latin is a dead language, the new Certamen Latin Team at Choate hopes to breathe new life into classical studies.
Certamen (which means struggle or competition) is a quiz bowl competition, in which teams of four students each “buzz in” to answer questions about Roman history, culture, mythology and literature as well as Latin grammar. Each round of the contest consists of twenty ten-point questions each, with five-point bonus opportunities after each correctly answered question. New Latin teacher Oliver Morris recently initiated the Choate “chapter” that will compete against the program’s founders, Exeter and Andover. Mr. Morris wants to draw in participation from other nearby schools and hopes that Choate will host the competition at some point.
While the program is in its early stages, Mr. Morris says, “We’ll go with whatever Exeter and Andover have already set up.” In the meantime, the Latin Team will compete once per term and host weekly meetings for students to practice weak areas. Mr. Morris sees much potential in members from his Advanced Placement Literature (LA550) section, especially Maddie Broder ’09, Julie Paret ’08, and Ashley McGeary ’08, as well as in enthusiastic underclassman James Barasch ’10.
While many current members are experienced Latin students who will participate in the “upper level” competition, Certamen also has a “lower level” team and encourages first and second year students to hone and show off their skills.
Despite the promising future of Certamen, Mr. Morris thinks it will be difficult for Choate to upset Exeter and Andover right away, as the two have been competing against each other for a while.
Although Choate is eager for another opportunity to defeat rival schools, Morris realizes, “It might take us a little practice before we’re able to really give them a run for their money.”
Certamen is an academic team and can be a tool for students to sharpen Latin skills and to gain a new perspective on the language. Grammar tasks such as “put [the verb] ‘amat’ into the imperfect [tense] passive [voice]” improve the students’ applications of basic skills. Certamen is also meant to complement a student’s study of Latin with the study of Roman history and culture, areas which courses sometimes cover in less depth in order to meet other expectations.
“It’s good to learn in a different way, rather than thinking ‘How many lines of Virgil can we get through tonight?’” said Morris.
For example, a culture question might ask, “Who was the last king of Rome?” Some of the questions will even be asked in Latin, which is certainly a new use of knowledge because a dead language such as Latin is rarely spoken in the classroom.
Since Certamen is a very new team at Choate, its members may need some practice with the new format of competition. However, the club already adds a new dimension and perspective to classics education, and its enthusiastic members will hopefully have successes similar to other academic teams such as the Math, Economics, and Debate Teams.
Certamen meets on Wednesday nights at 7:00 pm in Steele Hall and is looking for interested Latin students at all levels.