Four Irish secondary school students from Dublin, Antrim, Kerry and Cork pitted their language decoding skills against the world’s best at the International Linguistics Olympiad in Beijing, China last week. The students honed their problem-solving skills at a training camp inTrinity College Dublin, where they were tutored by experts from the CNGL Centre for Global Intelligent Content, which also sponsored their trip.
The International Linguistics Olympiad challenges students to apply logic and reasoning skills to solve complex language puzzles in unfamiliar languages. 160 students from 30 countries engaged in code breaking challenges, which they tackled individually and in teams. Examples included the requirement to decipher the Engenni language of Niger-Congo and decoding the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Armenian.
Representing Ireland in Beijing were Luke Gardiner of Gonzaga College, Dublin, Matthew Nixon of Aquinas Grammar School, Co. Antrim, Jane D’Altuin of Gaelcholaiste Chiarraí, Co. Kerry, and Daniel Herlihy of Douglas Community School, Cork. The four finished ahead of 2,600 opponents in this year’s All Ireland Linguistics Olympiad (AILO) to book their places in the final.
AILO is run by the CNGL Centre for Global Intelligent Content, a Science Foundation Ireland-funded research centre led by Trinity and co-hosted in Dublin City University. Competitors require no prior knowledge of a second language because even the hardest problems require only reasoning skills, logic and patience. AILO is now the largest of the Irish scientific Olympiads.
The Irish team recorded a strong performance at this year’s highly competitive International Linguistics Olympiad, withBelfast student Matthew Nixon won an Honourable Mention award.
Matthew Nixon enjoyed testing his code-breaking skills against the world’s best. He said: “Taking part in AILO was my first experience of Linguistics and I have really enjoyed putting my language and logic skills to the test as well as learning new problem-solving techniques. It was a fantastic opportunity to travel to Beijing as part of the Ireland team to compete against the top linguists from all over the world.”
Second-time International Linguistics Olympiad competitor Daniel Herlihy added: “This competition has granted me an amazing opportunity to represent my country, and has really improved my problem-solving skills. After the International Linguistics Olympiad in Manchester last year, I spent months dreaming about Beijing and competing in this year’s contest. To get the chance to do this all over again was simply unbelievable.”
The International Linguistics Olympiad aims to inspire the next generation of multilingual technology graduates, who can combine computational thinking with advanced language skills. Many important industry sectors require graduates with this powerful combination of skills, including the multi-billion euro digital content sector in which Ireland is a world leader.