The aim of this blog is to serve as a meeting point to those who study or have studied English philology and, more broadly, to all those who love literature and language.

1 Oct 2009


Just a few months ago, the 7th edition of the International Olympiads in Linguistics was held in the beautiful city of Wroclaw, Poland. This competition belongs to the International Science Olympiads that is composed by twelve disciplines, such as physics, biology, astronomy, mathematics and the like.

In the International Linguistics Olympiad, the competitors, all of them students of secondary school, must face problems in theoretical and descriptive linguistics (phonetics, morphology, semantics, etc.) The young competitors must try to figure out the inherent patterns and structures of languages that they don´t know. For example, in last edition, they were given ten short texts in Vietnamese and a short list of the most frequent words in such idiom. Then, they had three hours to translate the texts, without a dictionary, of course. In other problem, they were given a list of words in a certain language and asked to find patterns of how endings work and what the endings might mean. That is, they had to figure out how verb inflections or plurals are formed in such a language.

This kind of problems is very good for developing the sense of logic and analytical skills.

The aim of the organizers of these competitions is to promote a career in science and to challenge the brightest students from around the world. And the competition is really hard; actually, in several countries, those who achieve a high ranking in any ISO are granted access to a university of choice. Most of countries sent a team of three of four children, but this year India took part with a very special competitor. One of the organizers, Dominique Estival, trainer of the Australian team explains it: “The Indian team had three students, but one of them was quite an extraordinary girl. She went out by herself to study the past International Linguistic Olympiad (ILO) problems, and told her mother that she wanted to participate in the ILO. But there is no organisation in India comparable to ours where we foster the competition, so the mother wrote to the organisers of the ILO and asked whether they could bring a team without the competition in India. And the organisers allowed her to bring a team, and so she came with her brother and her friend and the mother was coming with them. The others did okay, but she won a silver medal. She's a very determined student.”
This year, the USA team came in first place, Korea won the second price and Russia came third.

Oh, and just in case you were wondering: No, our country has never been represented in this Olympiads. Funny, isn´t it?

1 comment:

  1. I like the type of activity they use to foster inductive reasoning to deal with linguistics. Much more effective, in my opinion, than learning rules or, even worse, memorizing descriptive facts of how a language works.