Young Hopefuls for Brain Olympics


February of this year saw the commencement of a major talent search across the nation, as part of the build-up to the All-Ireland Linguistics Olympiad 2014.

More than 750 candidates from across the nation undertook the qualifying challenges, and more than 160 of them were from south Dublin schools. The national final contest took place in Trinity College Dublin on March 25th, where the final hundred contestants competed for a chance to represent Ireland on the international stage at the International Linguistics Olympiad in July of this year.

At this point, you might be wondering, what is a Linguistic Olympiad exactly? Simply put, it’s the brain Olympics. Students (generally around the fifth year age range) are presented with a series of logical puzzles and language-based challenges which would probably stand the average persons’ hair on end at first glance, though in truth, they are simple if you are patient and reasonably talented with logic. For instance, a list of words and a list of phrases are given in a foreign language and the student’s native language. New statements are then presented as questions and the student has to work out from the two lists how to translate these statements. No prior second languages are required, students just have to work on what is presented on the page.

NewsFour spoke with Barry Kelleher, a teacher at St Michael’s College which will be sending students to represent Dublin 4 at the All Ireland finals. He explained that this was St Michael’s first ever year in the competition and the Linguistic Olympiad is only one part of a larger international Science Olympiad: “There are also competitions in chemistry and mathematics. From what I understand, the national final is comprised of individual testing and team-based challenges. St Michael’s entered six pupils in the national search, and three have qualified for the final.”

Mr Kelleher also explained that, as he understood things, tutoring would be made available for the All Ireland champions, provided by the Centre for Global Intelligent Content, who underwrite the contest. This institution, also known as the CNGL, is an academic research body worth €58 million, which is dedicated, in its own words to inspiring the next generation of multilingual technology graduates “to pursue careers combining computers, linguistics and languages”.

In the coming era of Silicon Dock and Ireland’s love affair with the corporate tech industry, this year’s Linguistic Olympiad looks promising indeed.

Conor O’Brien, Paddy Allen, Gary Mullins and Neil Mc Cann, students from St Michaels College, ready for action at the All Ireland Linguistics Olympiad Finals in Trinity College.

By Rúairí Conneely