This month, over 20 of Dean Close School’s top linguists stepped up to take part in the UK Linguistics Olympiad. Pupils from the Fifth and Sixth forms stretched themselves beyond their usual GCSE and A Level studies to take part in some challenging linguistic tasks.

The majority of pupils entered at Intermediate Level and had to tackle some intricate linguistic data problems, using their problem-solving abilities and attention-to-detail to spot patterns and deduce rules. Competitors faced mutations in Welsh, vowel harmony in Mongolian, the Australian Aboriginal language Pitjantjatjara and a transcription of the Cippus Abellanus, a document carved into stone from the 2nd Century BC. With some pupils working in teams, and others individually, they worked tirelessly to answer challenging questions to give themselves a tough mental workout. Working from the data set, lots of our candidates were eventually able to translate phrases like ‘Wiṯurpalu wangkangu, “Yaaltjingka punu?”’ from Pitjantjatjara to English. Luckily, they didn’t have to pronounce any of them.

This is the second year that Dean Close has entered the UK Linguistics Olympiad.  Last year Aaron Osmond achieved a Silver Award at Intermediate Level so decided to push himself further this time by entering at Advanced Level. As well as some questions common to the Intermediate paper, Aaron looked at some problems in Braille, in Ndebele (a language spoken in parts of southern Africa) and a language spoken by just 240 people in Northern Australia.

Head of Modern Languages, Josh Sumner said: “All our pupils performed admirably and got to grips with some very challenging problems. We hope that some of them will also compete at Advanced Level next year, and we look forward to receiving the official results”.

The link provides a problem from 2018. It involves the N’ko script used to write some West African languages. Why not have a go!