Sunday, May 31, 2015

Support your local linguistic olympiad

Dear linguistic olympiad-lovers and linguists of the world,

My name is Hedvig Skirgård and I’m a member of the board of the International Linguistics Olympiad (IOL) and PhD student of linguistics at ANU, Canberra. I’d like to tell you about linguistic olympiads and invite you all as linguists to participate in creating interesting linguistic puzzles for our participants and help spread linguistics to the youth of the world. You can contact us through this form

Linguistic Olympiads are arranged all over the world and started back in 1965 in Moscow. The goal is to make secondary school students interested in linguistics and languages by solving linguistic problems and getting training in linguistics. The contests look quite different in the different countries, but every year we come together for the international contest. The problems our participants solve in the contests are based on real phenomena in the world of languages and linguistics, and from all areas of our field of study. The participants are secondary school students and because of this we posit no prior explicit knowledge of linguistics, but the problems are not entirely based on logic either. We are particularly interested in puzzles based on lesser known languages. I highly encourage you to look at some examples at

The youtube-channel NativLang very sweetly made a short video introducing the contest, you can watch it here:

The contest is very popular, we're growing all the time and it attracts very passionate young people who are interested in languages and linguistics. They do not only broaden their horizons by meeting each other, but also by facing interesting phenomena in actual languages from all over the world. 

What many of these contests need are more ideas for problems, further help creating the problems and sometimes also help in linguistics training for the participants. This is where you as linguists can be helpful, without necessarily involving yourselves in the entire organisation of the contests. If you have any suggestions or would be able to assist as an advisor to a local contest, please contact the IOL via this form and we will relay correspondence.

There exists stable organisations for linguistic olympiads in several countries, but we also have some that are just starting up or that have just begun correspondence with us about entering.  These are the countries that have an IOL-accredited linguistic olympiad: Australia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, India, Ireland, Isle of Man, Latvia, Netherlands, Pakistan, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, UK, Ukraine and the USA.

These are the countries that have had contact with us, but have not yet been accredited fully: Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Iran, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Lithuania, Mexico, Nigeria, Norway, Serbia, Singapore, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.

Countries that share a language can collaborate, the English contests currently do but this is of course also possible for the countries of the Francophonie and other sets of countries that share language, or have closely related languages. This is entirely up to the local contests.

You are of course also most welcome to contact us regarding starting up a contest in a country that has not yet been in contact with us.

Feel free to spread this message wherever you think is useful.

All the best, 

p.s. Interesting information about the linguistic diversity of the contest itself: in the national contests participants typically only compete in one language, however in the international contest participants compete in different languages (i.e. receive the problem set in different languages). This year there will be 16 (Bulgarian Czech, Dutch, English, Estonian, French, Hungarian, Japanese, Latvian, Mandarin, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Slovenian, Spanish, Swedish and Ukrainian).  Participants are not required to speak English, however we need at least one of the accompanying adult team leaders to known English or the major language of the country where the IOL is currently being held. If you’d like to know more about this, please visit this blog post.