All Ireland Linguistics Olympiad

Budding linguists from Coláiste Chiaráin will this week test their wits against the languages of the world as the 2012 edition of the All-Ireland Linguistics Olympiad (AILO) gets underway. The international contest challenges secondary school students to apply logic and reasoning skills to solve complex puzzles in unfamiliar languages. In solving the problems, students learn about the fascinating world of computational linguistics.

A record 700 students from 60 schools across the country will host qualifying rounds of the competition this week, with the top 100 performers going on to compete at the national finals at Dublin City University (DCU) in March. The winners there will win the opportunity to represent Ireland at the International Linguistics Olympiad in Slovenia in July 2012.

Computational linguistics is the science of understanding language using logic and computer algorithms. It is pervasive in our lives - examples include Apple’s Siri voice recognition system and the Google Translate machine translation engine. The All Ireland Linguistics Olympiad aims to introduce students to this field – in which Ireland excels – and to encourage them to pursue careers at the intersection of language, linguistics and computing.

“AILO challenges students to engage in ‘code-breaking’ to understand unfamiliar languages such as Faroese or the Sioux language Lakhota”, explains Cara Greene of the contest organisers, the Centre for Next Generation Localisation. “The students analyse the patterns in a small amount of linguistic data and work out how the underlying system works. No prior knowledge of linguistics or foreign languages is required; instead the students must use logic and reasoning skills to solve the complex puzzles.”

“Question B: Traevolors Freisbuk, once you thought a bit about it, it became easier and easier. The abstract birds such as “”quail” made for a great challenge. I have been participating in the AILO for the last three years and I can surely say this is my favourite Test. This Competition has developed me as a person and as a linguist and has caused me to search for the meaning of my existence in life. AILO is a truly inspiring test of courage and character. I really enjoyed it and I found it easier this year” Dean Shanahan, Aquinas.

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