I still remember those moments from my childhood when I realised that language was something with its own patterns and rules. Sitting in a local Italian restaurant and realising I could figure out what the Italian words were by comparing them to the English translations in different dishes. Or the time my mind was blown because I figured out that I already knew when to use ‘a’ and when to use ‘an.’
These days, Australian students don’t have to wait until they’re out for pizza to have one of those ‘aha’ moments. Instead, they can compete in OzCLO – the Australian Computational Linguistics Olympiad.
Students in years 9-12 can compete, using their logic and problem solving skills on a range of puzzles taken from real languages from around the world. There are competitions in most states and territories, and schools can still register until the 1st of March. The State competitions kick off soon and there is now an option to complete the competition online, so even more students can participate.
Last year’s national winners went to Ljubljana to compete in the International Linguistic Olympiad, and this year’s winners will be off to Manchester. At the International competition last year students from all around the world translated Basque and figured out numbers in Umbu-Ungu, spoken in PNG. They also worked to solve a problem involving noun classes in Dyirbal, an Australian language.