Irish teens bid to become world’s top young problem solvers at International Linguistics Olympiad in India



  • Four young Irish language decoders depart for Mysore, India to pit their wits against the world’s best linguistic problem solvers at the International Linguistics Olympiad 2016
  • ADAPT Centre announces successful bid to host International Linguistics Olympiad 2017 next summer in Dublin


22 July 2016, Dublin, Ireland – Four of Ireland’s top young problem solvers are travelling this week to the International Linguistics Olympiad 2016 (IOL 2016) in a bid to win the title of the world’s best language decoder. The contest, which will run from 25th to 29th July in Mysore, India, will see more than 180 students from 30 countries test their minds against some of the world’s toughest problems in language and linguistics.


As Team Ireland prepares to depart for India, the ADAPT Centre for Digital Content Technology has announced that it has bid successfully to bring the International Linguistics Olympiad to Dublin next summer. The contest will be supported by Science Foundation Ireland.


The team comprises four second-level students. Dónal Farren (17) of St. Eunan’s College, Letterkenny, Donegal, Claire O’Connor (17) of St. Louis High School, Rathmines, Dublin, Pádraig Sheehy (16) of Gonzaga College, Ranelagh, Dublin, and Richard Neville (18) of St. Andrew’s College, Booterstown, Dublin.


Team Ireland will be challenged to solve complex problems in unfamiliar languages. Previous problems include deciphering little-known forms of sign language used by monks, interpreting Sanskrit poetry, and decrypting numerical spy codes. The contest aims to hone students’ logic and lateral thinking skills and inspire them to pursue careers at the combining computing and language.


The Irish representatives at IOL 2016 were selected due to their exceptional performances at the national final of the ADAPT-run All Ireland Linguistics Olympiad in March 2016. More than 4,000 secondary school students from 29 counties competed in this year’s Olympiad, which is now the largest Science Olympiad in Ireland.


Team Ireland will be seeking to emulate Dubliner Luke Gardiner, who won a bronze medal in last year’s world finals in Bulgaria. Gardiner is acting as tutor to this year’s team members during the Team Ireland training camp. The camp, which takes place on 21st and 22nd July, is run by language decoding experts at the ADAPT Centre at Trinity College Dublin. Gardiner is now studying a degree in Mathematics at the University of Cambridge.


Speaking ahead of his participation in the International Linguistics Olympiad 2016, Irish representative and Dublin student Pádraig Sheehy said:

 “I am looking forward to what I hope will be an enriching, worthwhile, and interesting experience. I’m eager to challenge myself with some international standard linguistics problems, and I’m looking forward to experiencing Indian culture, and meeting contestants from all over the world.”


Dublin student Richard Neville added:

“It is such an honour to be a part of this team – I’m so looking forward to testing myself and trying out new and challenging exercises. I can’t wait to get to know people who find linguistics as interesting as I do and getting to visit a new and exciting country with them.”


Ireland will host the International Linguistics Olympiad 2017 from 31st July to 4th August 2017 at Dublin City University. The All Ireland Linguistics Olympiad and Ireland’s participation in and future hosting of the International Linguistics Olympiad are key elements of the Problem-Solving Initiative ( This two-year nationwide initiative, run by ADAPT and funded by Science Foundation Ireland, aims to foster a new generation of skilled problem solvers for Ireland and to prepare the future leaders in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines.


For more information on the Linguistics Olympiad and the wider Problem-Solving Initiative, visit







The All Ireland Linguistics Olympiad (

Run by the ADAPT Centre, the All Ireland Linguistics Olympiad (AILO) is a contest in which secondary school students are challenged to develop their own strategies for solving problems in fascinating languages from around the globe. Students must use their ingenuity to solve puzzles such as deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphics, decoding numerical spy codes, and interpreting ancient Mayan poetry. No prior knowledge of linguistics or a second language is required, as even the hardest problems require only logical ability, patient work, and a willingness to think around corners. AILO introduces students to linguistics (i.e. the study of human language) and to the application of logic to problems of language understanding and translation. The goal is to develop students’ problem-solving skills and to inspire them to consider the fascinating range of careers at the intersection of computing, linguistics and language. More than 14,000 Irish students have participated in the Olympiad to date. The top four contestants each year are selected to represent Ireland at the International Linguistics Olympiad, where they pit their wits against 180 language decoders from 30 countries.


The Problem-Solving Initiative (
The Problem-Solving Initiative aims to foster the next generation of skilled problem solvers for Ireland. The two year (2016-2017) initiative is run by the ADAPT Centre for Digital Content Technology and is funded by Science Foundation Ireland. It aims to help: raise the Irish public’s awareness of and appreciation for the importance and applicability of problem-solving skills across science, the economy and society; promote STEM career pathways for those who enjoy solving problem; encourage people of all ages to hone their lateral-thinking skills; and create enthusiasm within the Irish public for problem solving by engaging people directly with exciting puzzles and mind-bending challenges. Key elements of the initiative include the expansion of the All Ireland Linguistics Olympiad, Dublin’s hosting of the International Linguistics Olympiad 2017, and a family-friendly problem-solving festival in Dublin Castle in August 2017. These events will be supplemented by a public awareness campaign to highlight and provide examples of the economic and social benefit of a strong problem-solving workforce, and exemplify careers requiring problem-solving skills. Mind-bending puzzles made available to the public and shared via social media.




Ms Laura Grehan

Education and Public Engagement Manager (travelling with Irish Team to India)

ADAPT Centre, Dublin City University

Tel: +353 87 2046518



Ms Olivia Waters

Marketing and Communications Manager

ADAPT Centre, Trinity College Dublin

Tel: +353 87 9153599