Perse student set for International Linguistics Olympiad

Toby Collins (Upper Sixth) will aim to demonstrate a way with words after gaining a place in the UK team for the International Linguistics Olympiad (IOL).

It is the second successive year that Toby has reached the IOL, having claimed Bronze in the 2021 edition, which was held online due to the Covid pandemic.

Having performed exceptionally well in the first two online rounds of the British Linguistics Olympiad, he was invited to a training camp at Warwick University. From there, he was one of the eight-strong team picked to represent the UK at this year’s IOL on the Isle of Man in July.

As such, it means a busy summer in prospect for Toby, who will also be taking part in the International Olympiad in Informatics in Indonesia in August.

Toby said: “I’m very pleased to have been selected again and I’m looking forward to it as it will be in-person this year and it will be good to see the other teams. Last year we met as a team in Greenwich, but because of Covid we couldn’t go anywhere internationally.

“It was nice just to have the training camp in-person as that was also online last year. It was good to meet people who enjoy the same kind of thing and be able to discuss the problems with them as well as socialise with them.

“We also had some lectures from the students at the university about some of their work, which gave a glimpse into their undergraduate research, so it was really useful.”

I’m hoping I can make an improvement on Bronze last year, but we’ll have to wait and see

Despite not currently studying a language, Toby felt this was not a barrier to successfully solving linguistics problems.

He said: “Maths is often a way in because it’s very logically structured. There are similar overlaps because you have to work your way through problems step by step.

“Most of the languages are either dead or very few people speak them in a remote region of the world, so you’re unlikely to ever know anything about it.

“The questions are very puzzle-like. Sometimes you’ll have lists of words in English and the other language and you have to match them up or work out how they ink together.

“Alternatively, you might get a number system and be given equations in another language. Often it’s very abstract and you have to work out what on earth is going on.

“It’s very tough, but I’m hoping I can make an improvement on Bronze, so we’ll have to wait and see.”


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