Perse students earn UK call-up for International Linguistics Olympiad
4 May 2021
Barnaby Colvin (Upper Sixth) and Toby Collins (Lower Sixth) have been chosen to compete for the UK at the International Linguistics Olympiad (ILO).
They were among an impressive number of Perse pupils who reached the second round of the UK Linguistics Olympiad (UKLO) after being among the 51 gold medallists nationally in the first round, the others being Daniel Chen, Eos Liao (both Year 11), Sourish Sharma and Vishrut Pisupati (both Year 10).
It was from this stage of the UKLO that the eight British representatives for the international competition were picked, with Barnaby and Toby making the grade after earning distinctions for their performances.
They had to answer a series of tough questions during the online exam, which tested their ability to decipher obscure languages and unfamiliar scripts from a limited amount of clues.
Although Barnaby and Toby study German and Spanish respectively, they both felt being able to speak another language played just a minor role in being successful in the UKLO.
Barnaby said: “It’s actually tremendously mathematical and logical. Having knowledge of languages might help to an extent, but the most important thing is being able to analyse data,” while Toby added: “It’s more about how language works, so it’s more of a problem-solving exercise.”
Both Barnaby and Toby enjoyed the challenge and were thrilled to have made it through to the ILO.
“I didn’t go into it with any great high hopes, I just thought it would be an entertaining opportunity to do something different to what we generally do in school,” said Barnaby.
Toby commented: “I was just glad to get through to round two, but I wasn’t expecting to get through to the international final, so I’m really pleased. I really enjoy puzzles and code breaking, so it was fun trying to use the information we were given to try to work out how different languages are put together.”
The ILO had been due to take place in Latvia in July, but due to Covid-19 restrictions, the competition will now take place online.
However, Barnaby and Toby will meet up with their UK team-mates in person as they will all join together at the University of Greenwich to take part in a six-hour individual paper and a three-hour team exam.
Barnaby said: “I’m certainly looking forward to it. It’s rather a shame that the international final has been cancelled, but it should still be an interesting opportunity.”
Toby added: “It would have been great if we could have gone to Latvia, but it’s good that we can still get together at Greenwich. It should make it fun and quite social.”