The Computational Linguistics Olympiad
[Guest post from Dragomir Radev, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, about an exciting new way to bring computational linguistics to the people, and vice versa.
As a teenager in Sofia, I spent a lot of my free time in the local
"Filmotheque". I always wanted to become a movie director like
Truffaut, Wenders, or Angelopoulos. That was until the day I learned
about the Linguistics Olympiad. My high school was about to
participate in it for the first time so there was still space on the
team for those students who did well at the internal tryouts. Knowing
a few foreign languages already, I had always been intrigued by their
regularities and differences. The contest seemed to fall at the right
time. I ended up on the school team and won a couple of awards at the
Bulgarian national contests. These were organized at the time by
Prof. Ruslan Mitkov of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. I enjoyed
the problems thoroughly - we had to decipher texts in obscure
languages, figure out the Japanese calendar system, and "discover"
vowel harmony in Hungarian and Turkish.
Twenty years later, here I am
, doing research and teaching
Computational Linguistics courses at the
University of Michigan. I was very pleased to be asked to become the
program chair of the first North American Computational Linguistics
. The program committee prepared a large
number of practice problems (see here!
for students interested in participating. You can try them out and
learn about language evolution in Ojibwe, why letter tiles in the game
of Scrabble (R) have different point values, or parse really
convoluted English sentences.
The contest is open to high school students with no prior preparation
in computer science and/or linguistics. They can sign up to
participate in either one of four live sites (Ithaca, Boston,
Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh) or via internet. Check the olympiad web
site for registration information. The best four contestants from the
US will represent the country at the International Linguistics
) in St. Petersburg, Russia, in
It is very encouraging that NSF
has agreed to sponsor
the contest. The stated goals of NSF are to "increase the size and
diversity of the pool of future scientists in Linguistics,
Computational Linguistics, and Human Language Technologies", "identify
talented high school students and help them get the background that
they need for higher education in Linguistics, Computational
Linguistics, and Human Language Technologies", and "get the scientific
study of language into high school curricula (in cooperation with the
LSA's Language in the School Curriculum committee)". In other words,
attracting teenagers to a very rewarding future in (Computational)
Linguistics. Take that, Hollywood!
- Dragomir R. Radev
Posted by David Beaver at February 2, 2007 02:20 PM