Thurles student bids to become top problem-solver

Lia Grogan, from Presentation Secondary School in Thurles, has taken part in the All Ireland Linguistics Olympiad Finals, the search to find Ireland’s top young decoders at Dublin City University. The best performers at the national finals in DCU will be selected to represent Ireland at the International Linguistics Olympiad in Manchester, UK in July 2013.

Lia Grogan, from Presentation Secondary School in Thurles, has taken part in the All Ireland Linguistics Olympiad Finals, the search to find Ireland’s top young decoders at Dublin City University. The best performers at the national finals in DCU will be selected to represent Ireland at the International Linguistics Olympiad in Manchester, UK in July 2013.

The Olympiad, run by the Science Foundation Ireland-funded Centre for Next Generation Localisation (CNGL), challenges secondary school students to apply logic and reasoning skills to solve complex language puzzles in unfamiliar languages. The contest aims to inspire the next generation of multilingual technology graduates, who possess a powerful blend of language competency and problem-solving expertise.

At the finals of this year’s competition, the country’s top 100 decipherers tackled a series of brain-teasing challenges in little-known or endangered languages. The problems covered everything from interpreting Armenian railway maps, to translating sentences into the fictional Yoda Speak language made famous in the Star Wars movies. There is little point in the students swotting up on their languages before the competition, however, as problems could cover any of the world’s more than seven thousand languages. Instead, key requirements are patience, logic and the willingness to think around corners.

“Through the All Ireland Linguistics Olympiad students learn that even the hardest problems of language understanding and translation can be solved by using logical ability”, says Olympiad Coordinator Dr Cara Green of CNGL. “By spotting patterns and inconsistencies in an unfamiliar language, the students can identify the basic rules of that language and then use the rules in order to solve the puzzles”, explains Greene.

In an increasingly global business world, it is ever more important for young people to possess language and problem-solving skills and cultural awareness. Ireland is currently experiencing significant demand for multilingual technology graduates across diverse industries, including the multi-billion euro digital content sector. The All Ireland Linguistics Olympiad (AILO) hones students’ skills in these key areas and inspires students to pursue third level studies combining computing, language and linguistics.

AILO is run by CNGL, a major academia-industry research centre funded by the Irish Government through Science Foundation Ireland. CNGL’s researchers at Dublin City University, Trinity College Dublin, University College Dublin and University of Limerick are working with industry to develop advanced technologies to adapt and personalise software and digital content to meet the different language, cultural and technical needs and preferences of users across global markets.