Irish teen wins bronze at International Linguistics Olympiad 2016

3 Aug 2016

From l-r: Richard Neville, Claire O’Connor, Dónal Farren and Pádraig Sheehy. Image via ADAPT Centre

Ireland’s four participants in the 2016 edition of the International Linguistics Olympiad have proven themselves as master problem-solvers, coming home with one bronze medal and two honourable mention awards.

The International Linguistics Olympiad (IOL) 2016 was recently held in Mysore, India as a means to challenge students to apply logic, computational thinking and problem-solving skills to solve some of the world’s most complex problems in linguistics and language.

Having proven their skills at the All Ireland Linguistics Olympiad (AILO) in March of this year, four Irish students took part in the major international event, facing stiff competition, with sponsorship and funding from the ADAPT Centre based in Trinity College Dublin (TCD).

Future Human

A challenge like no other

The Irish participants were Claire O’Connor (17) of St Louis’ High School, Rathmines, Dublin; Dónal Farren (17) of St Eunan’s College, Letterkenny, Co Donegal; Pádraig Sheehy (16) of Gonzaga College, Dublin, and Richard Neville (18) of St Andrew’s College, Booterstown, Dublin.

Incredibly, of these four, three have now come out the other side with honours at the event, which required competitors to find their way around maps written in the Aralle-Tabulahan language of Indonesia, decipher Luwian Hieroglyphics, and decode expressions in the Iatmül language of Papua New Guinea.

O’Connor of St Louis High School was Ireland’s brightest star at the event, beating off competition from 180 competitors from 30 countries to secure a bronze medal.

ILO Irish award winners

IOL 2017 coming to Dublin

Meanwhile, Farren and Sheehy did enough to impress the judges, each securing an Honourable Mention Award.

Unfortunately, St Andrew’s College’s Neville just missed out on winning an award but, given that each of the four Irish participants were chosen from among 4,000 Irish entries to AILO, making it to the international arm of the competition is itself quite the achievement.

The ADAPT Centre has confirmed that it is to host next year’s international edition of the event, where it will welcome competitors from 30 nations to Dublin City University (DCU).

Speaking at the closing ceremony of this year’s event, Laura Grehan, Irish team leader and education and public engagement manager at ADAPT, said: “The strong performance of the Irish team at IOL 2016 is evidence of how the AILO is helping to hone Irish students’ lateral thinking and problem-solving skills.

“The ADAPT Centre looks forward to hosting more than 350 people – contestants, jury members, team leaders and observers – from over 30 nations at IOL 2017 in Dublin next summer.”

Those looking to take part in AILO 2017 can register on the ADAPT Centre’s website.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic