Pres girls test their minds at Linguistics Olympiad

Talented problem solvers from the Presentation Secondary School, Kilkenny tested their wits against the languages of the world as the 2013 edition of the All-Ireland Linguistics Olympiad (AILO) got underway last week.

Talented problem solvers from the Presentation Secondary School, Kilkenny tested their wits against the languages of the world as the 2013 edition of the All-Ireland Linguistics Olympiad (AILO) got underway last week.

The international contest challenges secondary school students to apply logic and reasoning skills to solve complex puzzles in unfamiliar languages. It aims to inspire students to pursue careers combining computing, linguistics and language.

The students from Presentation were among a record 1,100 students from 70 schools who competed in qualifying rounds of the competition at their schools this week. The Kilkenny girls will be hoping to secure a place as one of the top 100 decoders to qualify for national finals, which will be hosted by Dublin City University (DCU) in March.

The winners there will win the opportunity to represent Ireland at the International Linguistics Olympiad in Manchester in July 2013.

AILO challenges students to engage in ‘code-breaking’ to unlock information in unfamiliar languages – be it deciphering ancient Oriental scripts, decoding Armenian railway maps, or translating genealogical terms in Hawaiian. The competition requires no previous knowledge of foreign languages or linguistics; instead the key requirements are logic, patience and reasoning skills.

Orla McGovern, a transition year student at Presentation Kilkenny enjoyed the problem-solving nature of the competition.

“I found the linguistics experience really interesting,” she said.

“It is completely different to learning languages in school, as you have to figure out for yourself the structure of the language and the meaning of particular words.”

The Presentation girls rose to the challenge of the complex puzzles.

“I felt that the girls enjoyed working autonomously and were very enthusiastic participants in the project”, said their teacher Ms Cooney.

AILO is run by Centre for Next Generation Localisation (CNGL), a major 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. Students who reach the national final of this year’s contest will be tutored by experts from CNGL.

AILO is helping to inspire the next generation of multilingual technology graduates.

“Ireland is currently experiencing significant demand for multilingual technology graduates across diverse industries”, said competition coordinator Cara Greene of CNGL.

“AILO helps students to sharpen the logic and problem-solving skills necessary for third level studies at the intersection of computing, language and linguistics. Already we are seeing past participants go on to study these subjects at university and act as tutors for current contestants.”

For AILO competition updates, or to try out the puzzles, visit www.cngl.ie/ailo.