Four secondary school students from across the island of Ireland will team up to test their language decoding skills against the world's best at the International Linguistics Olympiad in Beijing, China, in July. The students, from Dublin, Antrim, Kerry and Cork, finished ahead of 100 opponents in the All Ireland Linguistics Olympiad (AILO) Finals, which were recently held at Trinity College Dublin.
AILO is run by CNGL Centre for Global Intelligent Content, a Science Foundation Ireland-funded research centre led by Trinity and co-hosted in Dublin City University. It challenges students to apply logic and reasoning skills to solve complex language puzzles in unfamiliar languages, with the aim of inspiring the next generation of multilingual technology graduates to possess a powerful blend of language competency and problem-solving expertise.
Luke Gardiner of Gonzaga College (Dublin) was the overall winner of the individual competition. He will be joined in Beijing by fellow 'Team Ireland' members Matthew Nixon of Aquinas Grammar School, Co. Antrim, Jane D'Altuin of Gaelcholaiste Chiarraí, Co. Kerry, and Daniel Herlihy of Douglas Community School (Cork). Matthew, Jane and Daniel finished second, third and fourth respectively in the individual competition.
From a starting line-up of 2,600 students that spanned 23 counties, the top 100 sleuths battled it out during individual and team contests at AILO. Competitors engaged in 'code-breaking' challenges to unlock information in unfamiliar languages. Students could have been asked to decipher ancient hieroglyphics, translate Sanskrit poetry, or decrypt Armenian railway maps. No prior knowledge of a second language was required because even the hardest problems required only reasoning skills, logic and patience. This year's individual contest included puzzles in Cameroonian Pidgin English, the Navajo Native American language, and the Ilokano language of the Philippines.
Luke Gardiner, overall winner of the individual competition, is looking forward to pitting his wits against students from over 30 countries during a week packed with puzzles and cultural experiences in China in July. He said: "I've hugely enjoyed my experience of the Linguistics Olympiad, particularly the team section. It's great to work things out by bouncing ideas off other people. I look forward to the International Olympiad in Beijing, which is a wonderful and exciting opportunity."
Matthew Nixon, runner-up in the individual competition, which won him his place in 'Team Ireland', added: "I am so glad that I have taken part in the All Ireland Linguistics Olympiad. It was my first experience of Linguistics and I have really enjoyed putting my problem solving skills to the test. It will be such a fantastic opportunity to travel to Beijing as part of the Ireland team this summer and compete against linguists from all over the world."
Fellow 'Team Ireland' member, Jane D'Altuin, who gained her place by finishing third in the individual competition, added: "I've been having a great time doing the Linguistics Olympiad, both working individually on questions and combining efforts in the team round. I greatly look forward to going to China and hope to make friends with members of international teams as well as the members of my own."
In addition to the individual competition that put together the team heading to Beijing, there was also a team challenge at AILO. The winning team was made up of students from Gonzaga College (Dublin), Good Counsel College, Co. Wexford, and Gaelcholaiste Chiarraí, Co. Kerry. Individual competition winners Luke Gardiner and Jane D'Altuin (Gonzaga College and Gaelcholaiste Chiarraí) were part of this winning team, along with Conor Kelleher (Good Counsel College) and Turlough Hannon (Gonzaga College). The teams in this section of the competition tackled problems in Swahili, musical code, and the Australian language Yidiny.
Ireland is currently experiencing significant demand for multilingual technology graduates across diverse industries, including the multi-billion euro digital content sector. Professor in Computer Science at Trinity, and Director of AILO organisers CNGL, Vincent Wade, said: "The All Ireland Linguistics Olympiad hones students' problem solving, lateral thinking and language skills, which are all key requirements in today's global business world. By combining computational thinking and linguistics in a fun way, the contest is inspiring students to pursue third level studies at the intersection of computing, linguistics and language."
In preparation for the AILO final, competitors received tuition from experts at CNGL, a 61 million academia-industry research centre that adapts and personalises digital content, products and services to the needs of global customers. They will receive further tuition before they jet off to represent their country in the Finals in Beijing later this year.
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