Talented young linguists take on the world

Four of Ireland’s brightest young problem solvers are preparing to pit their wits against the world’s toughest puzzles in language, logic and linguistics when they compete in the International Linguistics Olympiad at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, USA.

 

Team Ireland aims to translate talent into success at International Linguistics Olympiad

Dublin, Ireland, 22 July 2011 – Four of Ireland’s brightest young problem solvers are preparing to pit their wits against the world’s toughest puzzles in language, logic and linguistics when they compete in the International Linguistics Olympiad at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, USA from 25-30 July 2011. Team Ireland, which comprises two secondary school students from Northern Ireland and two from the Republic, will go head to head with budding linguists from 19 countries as they attempt to decipher the grammar of unfamiliar languages from around the globe. The Irish competitors will depart for Pittsburgh on Sunday (24 July 2011).

The International Linguistics Olympiad challenges secondary school students to develop their own strategies for solving problems in fascinating real languages. In past editions of the Olympiad these unfamiliar languages have included the Budukh language of Azerbaijan, the Incan language Quechua, and ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. In solving the problems, students learn about the diversity and consistency of language, and how to apply logic to problems of language understanding and translation. The competition's overall goal is to inspire students to explore the diverse range of exciting career opportunities at the intersection of computing and languages.

Representing Team Ireland at this year’s Olympiad will be 18 year old Medbh Campbell of Methodist College Belfast, 17 year old Niamh Dhondt of Loreto Secondary School Kilkenny, 16 year old Declan Manning of Ballincollig Community School, and Alec Fair, also aged 16, of Methodist College Belfast. The four students were selected on the back of their strong performance at the All Ireland Linguistics Olympiad (AILO), which was hosted by the Science Foundation Ireland-funded Centre for Next Generation Localisation (CNGL) at Dublin City University in March 2011. More than 300 students from 42 schools across Ireland took the challenge this year.

Speaking in advance of the team’s departure for Pittsburgh, Declan Manning of Team Ireland said, "I'm really looking forward to the competition in Pittsburgh as I am sure it will be an extremely educational and enjoyable experience and a trip to remember. The trip will definitely improve my knowledge of linguistics, as spending a week surrounded by the best young linguists in the world could only have this effect."

Team Leader Professor Harold Somers is anticipating a strong performance by the Irish competitors. Somers said, “The logic and problem-solving skills displayed by the students are truly impressive. Their tremendous aptitude for applying these skills to decoding unfamiliar languages bodes well not just for the country’s performance at the International Linguistics Olympiad, but for the future of the highly valuable localisation and language services sectors in Ireland.” The opening ceremony of the International Linguistics Olympiad 2011 will be held on Monday 25 July on the Carnegie Mellon University campus. The competition gets underway with the individual contest on Tuesday 26 July, followed by the team contest on Thursday 28 July. The winners will be announced on Friday 29 July. The teams can also look forward to a jam-packed agenda of fun linguistic and cultural activities throughout the week. Follow Team Ireland’s progress at www.cngl.ie/ailo.

The International Linguistics Olympiad (IOL) is one of 12 International Science Olympiads, and has been held annually since 2003. Ireland has entered a team each year since 2009, and the team members are selected on the basis of their strong performance in the All-Ireland Linguistics Olympiad (AILO). AILO is run by the Science Foundation Ireland-funded Centre for Next Generation Localisation (CNGL) based at Dublin City University, Trinity College Dublin, University College Dublin and University of Limerick. Working with industry, researchers at CNGL are producing advances in ‘localisation’, the process by which computers adapt and personalise software and digital content for different languages, cultures and individual users' needs. See http://www.ioling.org and http://www.cngl.ie/ailo.