Jackson trivia contest is bilingual

Sandra Vasquez and Alyson Spery, front right, work to answer a trivia question as Josep Companyo, back left, digs deep for the answer alongside his teammates, Neybi Loaeza, Dustin Beamon and Keri Mackey. They battled during the first Bilingual Trivia Night at Teton County Library. (Photo by Ryan Dorgan, Jackson Hole News&Guide)

By Allie Gross

Jackson Hole News&Guide

Via Wyoming News Exchange

JACKSON — What’s the largest country in South America?

Cue the “Jeopardy” theme music, as players discuss in hushed tones and scribble down answers.

¿Cuantos corazones tienen los pulpos? (In English: How many hearts do octopi have?)

The music comes on again while teams brainstorm, with points tallied and answers revealed at the end of each round.

The competition among three teams Jan. 24 was friendly at Jackson Hole’s inaugural Bilingual Trivia Night at Teton County Library.

First created for the Language Exchange program, which pairs native Spanish- and English-speakers to casually practice listening and speaking a foreign language, organizers decided to open the trivia contest the anyone who wanted to play.

The library’s Latino Programs coordinator, Pati Rocha, saw it as a good way “to integrate Latinos and the American community.”

“I was trying to think of something that will bring everybody together,” she said. “I wanted something that people will have a game, and have fun and be able to use their language skills in English and Spanish.”

Bingo was too boring, testing only the vocabulary of numbers. Trivia made more sense for language learning, Rocha said.

The format of the trivia night followed the basic parameters of the Language Exchange program, which has partners speaking for 30 minutes in English and then 30 in Spanish. Half the questions during four rounds were in English, the other half in Spanish.

The questions ranged from general sports trivia — “What sport does Roger Federer play?” — to many with a bent toward Spanish-speaking countries and cultures — “What is the nationality of Pablo Neruda?” That emphasis allowed players on diverse teams to weigh in with expertise on their own experiences and culture.

A make-or-break question appeared to be “Who wrote ‘100 Years of Solitude’?” The answer, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, ultimately decided second and third place. But all participants walked away winners — with prizes including Starbucks gift cards and library hats.

Rocha said she kept the questions pretty easy for the first event to maintain a focus on meeting new people, practicing language skills and having fun. She said the positive reception to trivia may mean playing more challenging rounds more often, or nights with particular subjects like music or sports.