2011 IOL Team Report

In July of this year we were lucky enough to have the opportunity to represent Australia in the Ninth International Olympiad in Linguistics (IOL). After placing first in OzCLO, we travelled to Pittsburgh, USA, where we were to compete as one of 27 teams from 19 countries.

The competition involved a three-hour team contest and an arduous six-hour individual contest. We were required to solve problems on languages such as Menominee, Faroese, Vai, Nahuatl, Sanskrit, and the language of barcodes, EAN-13. All problems from 2011, as well as from past years, can be viewed at http://www.ioling.org/problems/2011/.

When we weren’t solving complex linguistic problems, we were able to explore the city of Pittsburgh; we went around town absorbing American culture and even heard one of Pittsburgh’s own linguistic quirks, “yinz”, which acts as a plural of “you”. We were able to visit such places as the Andy Warhol Museum and the Cathedral of Learning (part of the University of Pittsburgh), as well as visiting diners and drug stores and everything in between.

At the closing ceremony, solutions were given to all of the problems, and the results of both contests were announced. Gold for the team contest went to the USA’s team Red, silver to Russia’s St. Petersburg team, and bronze to Russia’s Moscow team. The awards for the individual contest consisted of four gold, eight silver, and thirteen bronze medals, as well as twenty-five honourable mentions. We were ecstatic when one of our own, Paul Lau, was awarded a silver medal, Australia’s first ever medal at the IOL! The four gold medals were awarded to individuals from USA (Red), Estonia, Russia (Moscow), and Russia (St. Petersburg).

Overall, we had great time in Pittsburgh; we made lots of friends from all over the world and, despite the challenging problems, we thoroughly enjoyed representing Australia at the IOL. We strongly encourage any interested students to enter OzCLO.

There are several people who have provided us with the opportunity to compete in this year’s IOL. We would like to thank:

  • Jill Vaughan, our wonderful team coach;
  • Dominique Estival and the OzCLO steering committee, as well as all of OzCLO’s sponsors;
  • Rachel Nordlinger, chair of the Victorian arm of OzCLO;
  • The IOL and Carnegie Mellon University;
  • The University High School community, for providing us with support for our trip;
  • Celia King and Jenny Tarr, the teachers who introduced us to OzCLO; and
  • Nell Day, for organizing our school’s 2011 participation in OzCLO.

Report by: Joanna Bloore, Paul Lau, Ben van Mierlo, Anna Zeng, from the University High School, Melbourne.

2011 IOL OzCLO Report

The 9th International Linguistics Olympiad took place in Pittsburgh, USA from 25th – 29th July and was hosted by Carnegie Mellon University. The winning team from the National Round of OzCLO (Joanna Bloore, Paul Lau, Benjamin van Mierlo and Anna Zeng from the University High School, Melbourne) competed against 27 teams from 19 countries in an individual and a group contest. Contestants’ logical ability and problem-solving skills were pushed to the limits to tackle data sets from diverse languages and writing systems including Menominee, Faroese, Vai, Nahuatl and Sanskrit, as well as a fiendish problem on the barcode language EAN-13.

The jury awarded 25 medals (4 gold, 8 silver, and 13 bronze), as well as 25 honourable mentions, 3 team contest trophies, a team cup for highest average score, and 5 best solution prizes. We’re very proud to announce that Australia’s Paul Lau was awarded a silver medal in the individual contest – the highest achievement so far of an Australian student at the IOL! The team also performed very well as a whole against some formidable competition in the group contest.

The primary purpose of the event is to raise public awareness of linguistics. “Linguistics is not a school subject, and students often don’t even know the word,” says Ivan Derzhanski, co-chair of the International Board and associate professor at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. “Our contest is one of the ways of telling them what a fascinating science it is.”

In Australia, OzCLO is now held in 7 locations, with almost 800 students having competed in the First Round in March 2011. This is made possible by the dedication of the local volunteer organisers, with the support of the universities where it is held. The Australian Linguistic Society provided funding for the training of the winning team in preparation to the ILO and generous sponsors helped cover the team’s travel expenses.

After Wroclaw in 2009, Stockholm in 2010 and Pittsburgh in 2011, we look forward to sending another Australian team to next year’s IOL, to be held in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

For more information on the IOL, see http://www.ioling.org/

Report by
Jill Vaughan, Australian Team Leader
Dominique Estival, Chair of the OzCLO Steering Committee

2010 IOL OzCLO Report

The Australian team was the winning team from the National Round, coming for the Presbyterian Ladies College in Melbourne, VIC. The team was composed of Samantha Hauptman, Michelle Jayasuriya, Carmen Wu and Sally Yu. They arrived from Melbourne with their teacher, Mrs Susan Knopfelmacher, and we all met at the Stockholm Central Station on Friday 16 July before going to the Ostra Real.

Susan’s daughter, Stephanie, joined us and stayed with us for most of the competition. We had been asked to take under our wing 3 of the USA team members who also arrived earlier (from Korea and Kazaghstan). On Friday evening, we all went out to dinner with the ILO local organisers, Hediwg and Roos, who had done a fantastic job under very difficult financial conditions. Here is a synopsis of each day’s experiences.


Training session in the morning with an old ILO team problem, which the team finds very difficult (Chinese transcription problem); tourism in the afternoon; more training in the evening


More training for the Australian team with me in the morning. They finally have solved the Chinese problem. In the afternoon, Patrick Littel ran a session on teamwork for the teams from the USA, Australia, Singapore and India.


More training with Patrick Littell running a very useful game based on the Swedish subway system in the morning and a session on morphology in the afternoon. Tourism in-between. The other teams arrived from the rest of Europe. We meet everyone at the opening session in the evening.


Individual contest: 5 problems in 6 hours. Most contestants found it easier than they expected, the jury thought it was too easy. In the afternoon, the Australian team wanted to visit the very large Stockholm IKEA store and we had a little expedition with Patrick Littell and most of the USA teams. Lecture in the evening on field linguistics.


Excursion day; beautiful weather.


Team contest. 4 hours. Extremely difficult: Mongolian dictionary. Rumour has it that the best team could only solve 30% of the problem. Most teams despair but they still had a good time. Relax in the evening. Lecture in the evening on computational linguistics.


Final session where the problems were explained and prizes awarded.

Lessons from the ILO 2010

The team was better prepared this year than in 2009, thanks to ALS and Melbourne Unit. Still need to provide more training before the ILO.


The teacher helped organise the trip and chaperoned the students during the flights, while I took over and did the training and went with the students during the competition. This division of labour worked very well.

Other results

Michelle was awarded an ‘honourable mention’.

The team performed much better in both individual and team events. They really enjoyed the challenge and are keen to try again next year.

Report by OzCLO Chair, Dr. Dominique Estival

2010 IOL Team Report

The opportunity to represent Australia in the 8th International Olympiad in Linguistics has been an amazing educational experience, and the time we spent in Stockholm, Sweden, was unforgettable. The competition was intellectually stimulating, challenging us to think deeply and laterally. Thanks to our University of Melbourne coaches Jill and Katharine and to our patient and able coach, Dominique, we learnt a lot about linguistics, and found that we could, in fact, solve some of the more difficult linguistics problems.

When we weren’t fiercely exercising our minds, we were able to meet competitors from various nations, the USA, Europe, and Asia. Though everyone came from different parts of the world and had vastly different cultures, we were able to make friends and have a lot of fun.

Stockholm is a beautiful city, and we explored different regions of the city, taking in its rich history and culture. From the tree-lined boulevards and sprawling parks to Gamla Stan (the Old Town), and the vibrant city centre, the city was a wonderful location for IOL 2010. We would like to extend our sincere thanks to the Swedish organising committee for providing us with food, accommodation, and for organising terrific excursions and activities for everyone to participate in.

Lastly, we would especially like to thank the University of Melbourne, Dr Rachel Nordlinger and her team for hosting the Victorian competition, and Dr Dominique Estival, for organising the Australian Linguistics Olympiad and coaching us so diligently in Stockholm. Also, Mrs Knopfelmacher, Head of Gifted Education for organizing PLC’s participation and accompanying us on the trip. We urge other students to participate in the OzCLO competition in years to come; certainly, we will be back again for another challenge!

IOL 2010 Picture 1

IOL 2010 Picture 2

Written by Michelle Jayasuriya, Samantha Hauptman, Carmen Wu, Sally Yu of the Presbyterian Ladies College, Melbourne

2009 IOL Team Report

Representing Australia at the International Linguistics Olympiad in Poland

Participating in the National and the International Olympiad in Linguistics was an enriching experience. During our time in Poland, we learnt much more than we previously knew about linguistics and the keys to solving linguistics problems. We found that despite the age difference, we were able to meet and make friends with people from many different cultures, and to find the similarities between people from all places in the world, as competitors came from places such as Slovenia, Estonia, India, the USA, Serbia, Ireland, Russia, Latvia, Sweden, Bulgaria, the Netherlands, Korea, Germany and Great Britain. Despite the short amount of time we spent in Poland, we were able to see much of Wroc¬law and the surrounding area through excursions organized by the ILO committee.

Written by Krysia Choros and Sarah Twomey

2009 IOL OzCLO Report

The Australian team, Ross McGachey (Year 12), Krysia Choros (Year 11) and Sarah Twomey (Year 9), has just come back from the 7th International Olympiads in Linguistics, held in Poland. This year, 23 teams representing 17 countries participated in the IOL/IOL and, along with Ireland, Great Britain and India, this was the first time that Australia was represented. The team did quite well for a first effort but even more importantly they really enjoyed the competition — both individual and team events — and they had a great time with the students from so many other countries in the excursions in and around Wroclaw.


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