Veering away from London 2012 for just a moment, this week Ljubljana, Slovenia, has been an Olympic setting with a difference, as the International Linguistics Olympiad games have been taking place. Young lateral thinkers from 27 counties, including Ireland, are testing their minds against others to problem-solve the toughest problems in logic, language, and linguistics.
This year’s competition, which started on 31 July, is wrapping up today.
The International Linguistics Olympiad has been running since 2003. It challenges secondary school students to develop their own strategies for solving problems in unfamiliar languages. Think everything from interpreting Sanskrit poetry to deciphering Armenian railway maps.
The aim of the contest is to inspire students to take up careers around the intersection of languages, computing and linguistics.
So who are the Irish students at this year’s Linguistics Olympiad? Dale Walmsley from Wellington College Belfast is in Slovenia, as is Aidan Marnane from St Francis College, Co Cork. They are being joined by Diarmaid Wingfield of Newtown School Waterford, and Imogen Grumley Traynor of St Kilian’s Deutsche Schule in Dublin.
The four students were selected on the back of their performances at the All Ireland Linguistics Olympiad (AILO), which was hosted by Dublin City University in March.
Localisation sector in Ireland
AILO itself is run by the Centre for Next Generation Localisation (CNGL), an academia-industry centre that’s funded by Science Foundation Ireland and 10 industry partners.
Right now, the 150 researchers who are based at the CNGL are developing technologies to tackle challenges in localisation, the process by which computers adapt and personalise software and digital content for different languages and cultures.
According to CNGL, the localisation sector in Ireland is worth around €680m. Part of the centre’s aim is to provide a steady flow of language and computing graduates to keep the sector buoyant in Ireland.
As for the linguistic championships in Slovenia, you can follow Team Ireland’s progress on Twitter!