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North American Computational Linguistics Olympiad (NACLO)

Open round of NACLO hosted by Linguistics Division on January 25th

NACLO coordinator and Linguistics Undergraduate Advisor, Dennis Ryan Storoshenko

On Thursday January 25th, SLLLC's Linguistics division hosted the open round of the North American Computational Linguistics Olympiad (NACLO) at the University of Calgary. This is the third year in which they have hosted this event as the only test site in Calgary. The contest exam focuses on the pattern recognition and problem solving skills which students can bring from their math and science courses into the realm of language research. In the process, students learn about possible applications of these skills to language, including the development of translation software, speech recognition, and even orthography development which can be an important component of language documentation and revitalization.

For 2018, ten local Grade 11 and 12 students participated in the contest at this first open round. Top scorers in Canada are invited to a second round, and have the potential to earn a spot on the national Anglophone team which will be sent to the International Linguistics Olympiad in Prague.

“As we learned from the recent Amazon HQ2 bid, Calgary has a need for more tech education in order to compete and diversify into the future. Training in computational linguistics and natural language processing techniques at the post secondary level will be a key component of this diversification,” says local NACLO coordinator and Linguistics Undergraduate Advisor Dennis Ryan Storoshenko. “This competition allows us to raise awareness about this exciting career opportunity so that students can enter university knowing the value of formal linguistics training. Linguistics isn't about knowing lots of languages. It's knowing how languages work, and being able to apply that knowledge to real world problems.”

While the competition does not require any prior linguistics training, the Linguistics division have been offering afternoon “boot camp” sessions where students can work through problems from prior contests, and learn some strategies for getting through the exam. Working with Linguistics instructors and graduate students, the students attending these sessions also learn some basic linguistic background and concepts which appear on the exam from year to year. The division of Linguistics  has also presented this material at a high school summer camp organized by the Canadian Mathematics Association. The hope is that this outreach program will continue to grow year on year, helping both the program and city diversify, and take advantage of this developing field.

To learn more about the contest and to start planning your entry in the 2019 competition, visit our local organizing website.