Wordsmiths crack linguistic codes

WORDSMITHS from Priestley College have taken on their peers in The UK Linguistics Olympiad.

Three students entered the fun, but challenging competition, which features problems that are all taken from a language.

Elizabeth Olohan, who studies Computer Science, Geography and Mathematics, was one of the Priestley participants.

The former Padgate Academy pupil, who enjoys learning about languages, said it had been a chance to develop her problem-solving skills.

“We were set five puzzles and each had some background information on the language, some English, and some translations,” she said.

“We had to work out a selection of things like alphabets, numbers, words, and phrases, based off what we were given.”

In a typical UKLO problem, participants see data from one of the world’s 7,000 languages and need to work out how a specific aspect of the language works.

Cracking the code is good for analytical skills, but also shows participants how fascinating languages are.

Elizabeth, who has applied to study Computer Science at Nottingham Trent University, hopes to become a computer programmer.

“The puzzles gave me some insight into just how different the structure of some languages can be compared to the common, modern languages we’re used to,” she said.

Linguistics olympiads started in the 1950s in Moscow, but now involve more than 40 national competitions.

The UK is a relatively recent arrival in 2010, but national teams perform outstandingly well.

Babette Verhoeven, who teaches English at Priestley, said they were a great opportunity for students.

“It is a chance for anyone with an interest in languages, or even code breaking, to challenge themselves beyond the classroom,” she said.

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