Luke Gardiner (19), a student at Gonzaga College, Dublin, has won bronze at the International Linguistics Olympiad.
The International Linguistics Olympiad brings together 180 secondary school students from 29 countries, testing them on their ability to solve the world’s toughest puzzles in language and linguistics.
No prior knowledge of language or linguistics is a requirement of competing – success in the Olympiad is based on an individual’s ability to use logic, patience and lateral thinking to solve problems.
This year, competitors had to decode numerals in an Aztec language; decipher Soundex, a phonetic algorithm for indexing names by sound; interpret ancient Somali poetry, and decrypt sentences from the Wambali language of Australia, which is spoken by only 89 people worldwide.
Joining Gardiner on the Irish team were Niamh Lynch (18), Shmuel Barron (17) and Ethan Hamman (18).
This is Ireland’s seventh time competing in the Olympiad, but marks the first time an Irish team member has achieved a medal.
Dr Cara Greene, from Science Foundation Ireland’s ADAPT Centre, who led the Irish delegation, said: “The standard of competition is incredibly high, and nations with a long tradition in the Linguistics Olympiad tend to sweep the medals. This makes Luke’s performance very noteworthy. In fact, all four members of the Irish team performed exceptionally well.”
The International Linguistics Olympiad, which has been held annually since 2003, took place this year in Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria.
Gardiner, Lynch, Barron and Hamman are the top four linguistics champions in Ireland, selected earlier this year at the national All Ireland Linguistics Olympiad, run by the Science Foundation Ireland ADAPT Centre. Before they departed for Bulgaria, the four students attended a two-day, problem-solving training camp in Dublin City University (DCU).
Gardiner is planning to study mathematics at university next year, joining a long line of All Ireland Linguistics Olympiad past participants who are putting their problem-solving abilities to good use in STEM-related careers.