All-Ireland Linguistics Olympiad at DCU
9 March 2011
Some of the best lateral thinkers from secondary schools across Ireland are sharpening up their logic, language and problem-solving skills in preparation for the national final of the All-Ireland Linguistics Olympiad (AILO), which takes place on Wednesday, 9 March 2011 at Dublin City University. The international contest sees young scholars test their minds against the world’s toughest puzzles in language, logic and linguistics.
More than 300 students representing schools in 23 counties participated in preliminary rounds of the challenge last month, with the top 100 problem-solvers making it through to next week’s finals. There, the students will battle it out for the national title and the opportunity to represent Ireland at the International Linguistics Olympiad World Finals in the USA in July 2011.
The All-Ireland Linguistics Olympiad challenges students to develop their own strategies for solving problems in fascinating real languages from around the globe. Students must use their ingenuity to solve puzzles such as deciphering ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics; interpreting Tenji, the Japanese equivalent of Braille; and writing the names of football teams in Chinese. No prior knowledge of linguistics or languages is required: even the hardest problems require only logical ability, patient work, and a willingness to think around corners.
The AILO competition aims to introduce students to linguistics (i.e. the study of human language) and to the application of logic to problems of language understanding and translation. The finalists have been tutored by experts from the Centre for Next Generation Localisation (CNGL), a major multi-disciplinary academia-industry research centre funded by Science Foundation Ireland and based at Dublin City University, Trinity College Dublin, University College Dublin and University of Limerick. Researchers at CNGL are producing advances in how computers adapt and personalise software and digital content, including computer games, to different languages and cultures.
“In today’s increasingly global business world, it is ever more important for our young people to have language and problem-solving skills and cultural awareness”, says Professor Harold Somers, co-ordinator of the AILO competition. “There are a whole range of career opportunities that draw on skills at the intersection of computing and languages. Ireland has for many years been a global leader in ‘localisation’, the process by which multinational companies adapt their products and product-related content to foreign markets and languages, and we’re now witnessing huge growth in jobs related to global customer support operations that draw on language and problem-solving skills.”
By generating interest in the study of human language, AILO is helping to ensure that there is an adequate supply of talented graduates to continue the success of localisation and other export-focused activities in Ireland and to cement the country’s leadership position in this growing segment.
Speaking of how the challenge has captivated her, Imogen Grumley Traynor, Transition Year student at St Kilian’s Deutsche Schule in Clonskeagh, Dublin, said “The passion awakened in me is so great that I am currently looking into studying linguistics at university”.
Do you think you have a knack for languages, logic and lateral thinking? Do you think you could decipher an ancient script, or deduce the logical patterns of Swahili or Aymara? Visit the AILO website to test your own linguistics skills with some sample problems at www.cngl.ie/ailo