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Minister Seán Sherlock launches All Ireland Linguistics Olympiad

17th January 2013: Minister Sherlock urges students to test their minds against the languages of the world

Seán Sherlock T.D., Minister for Research and Innovation, and Olympiad participants Aidan Murnane of St Francis College Rochestown, Cork and Imogen Grumley Traynor of St Kilian’s Deutsche Schule Clonskeagh, Dublin.

Testing their minds at the launch of the All Ireland Linguistics Olympiad 2013 are Seán Sherlock T.D., Minister for Research andInnovation, and Olympiad participants Aidan Murnane of St Francis College Rochestown, Cork and Imogen Grumley Traynor of StKilian’s Deutsche Schule Clonskeagh, Dublin.

Seán Sherlock T.D., Minister for Research and Innovation, has urged secondary school students to sharpen their problem-solving skills by taking part in an all-island competition that pits their wits against the languages of the world. Minister Sherlock today (17 January 2013) launched the 2013 season of the All Ireland Linguistics Olympiad (AILO) at the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation. The competition challenges young scholars to test their minds against the world’s toughest puzzles in language, logic and linguistics. Schools can register for the competition until 31 January 2013 at www.cngl.ie/ailo.

AILO aims to inspire students to pursue careers combining computing, linguistics and language. 2013 is already a record-breaking year for the competition, with more than 1,100 students having signed up to take the challenge thus far. The contest is run by the DCU-led Centre for Next Generation Localisation (CNGL), which is funded by Science Foundation Ireland.

AILO challenges students to engage in ‘code-breaking’ to unlock information in unfamiliar languages – be it deciphering ancient Oriental scripts, decoding Armenian railway maps, or translating genealogical terms in Hawaiian. The competition requires no previous knowledge of foreign languages or linguistics; instead the key requirements are logic, patience and reasoning skills. The prize for the four top sleuths is the opportunity to represent Ireland at the International Linguistics Olympiad in Manchester in July 2013.

Speaking at the launch, Minister Sherlock said that Ireland is currently experiencing significant demand for multilingual technology graduates across diverse industries. Among these is the €680 million localisation sector which enables companies to adapt and personalise digital products, services and content to the needs of global users.

Minister Sherlock stated “Ireland needs a strong supply of talented graduates to pursue the many rewarding careers available at the intersection of computing, language and linguistics. Lateral thinking and problem-solving are at the heart of these disciplines, so the All Ireland Linguistics Olympiad provides excellent preparation for further studies in these high-growth fields.”

The Minister added “AILO is a fascinating competition that enables students to sharpen their logic and problem-solving skills in a fun way. I urge students to take the challenge and test their minds against the languages of the world”.

AILO is already helping to inspire the next generation of multilingual technology graduates. Imogen Grumley Traynor, a sixth year student at St Killian’s Deutsche Schule in Clonskeagh, Dublin has twice represented Ireland at the International Linguistics Olympiad. Imogen credits AILO with igniting her passion for linguistics, and she now plans to study the discipline at university.

 Imogen states “Participating in AILO has been one of the best experiences of my life. Little did I realise a few years ago that I could learn so much about the world's languages while reading unfamiliar writing scripts, translating from languages I had never heard of, breaking codes and, indeed, having fun! Before AILO I had only a vague idea of what linguistics was; now I have discovered not only the course I want to study at university but also a great passion which I hadn't yet put a name on.”

Past participant Robert Devereux, who is studying Computer Applications at DCU, himself now tutors AILO participants. Robert highlights how the competition has greatly helped his university studies. 

Robert states “The Linguistics Olympiad is more about understanding how languages are put together rather than actually being able to read them. It is a great way to hone problem-solving skills. Being involved in AILO helped teach me some of the necessary problem-solving skills used in software programming. Some of the AILO questions have even been used by my lecturers to demonstrate how to approach problems you have never seen before."

Melissa Sorensen is studying a degree in Computer Science, Linguistics and Language at Trinity College Dublin. A past participant in AILO, Melissa also now volunteers as a tutor for the competition. 

Melissa says “After competing in AILO my enthusiasm for languages and linguistics expanded greatly. The experience had a huge effect on my choice of course in university and I was delighted when I was given the opportunity to become an AILO tutor.”

Students who reach the national final of this year’s contest will be tutored by experts from CNGL, a major multi-disciplinary academia-industry research centre funded by Science Foundation Ireland and based at Dublin City University, Trinity College Dublin, University College Dublin and University of Limerick. 

The closing date for registration for AILO 2013 is 31 January 2013. Schools can try out puzzles and sign up online at www.cngl.ie/ailo.

Contestants Imogen Grumley Traynor, and Aidan Murnane and competition tutor Melissa Sorensen

Pictured at the launch of the All Ireland Linguistics Olympiad 2013 are contestants Imogen Grumley Traynor of St Kilian’s Deutsche Schule Clonskeagh, Dublin and Aidan Murnane of St Francis College Rochestown, Cork, and competition tutor Melissa Sorensen of Trinity College Dublin

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