Dragomir Radev Coaches High School Linguists in Competition at International Linguistics Olympiad
Dragomir Radev, Professor in Computer Science and Engineering, the School of Information, and in the Department of Linguistics, has coached US high school students to successful competition at the 12th International Linguistics Olympiad (IOL), which was held in Beijing, China from July 21 through 25th, 2014 and was hosted by Beijing Language and Culture University. It is the eighth year that Radev has coached the team.
The IOL, one of twelve international science olympiads, mimics the skills used by researchers and scholars in the field of computational linguistics, which is increasingly important for the United States and other countries. Using computational linguistics, experts can develop automated language technologies such as search engines and translation software that cut down on the time and training needed to work with other languages.
Two four-student teams from the US and one from Canada made the trip to compete in the IOL from North America. Prof. Radev and Prof. Lori Levin of Carnegie Mellon University coached the US teams; Prof. Heather Newell of Université du Québec à Montréal coached the Canadian team. The US and Canadian teams held joint practices prior to the olympiad and arrived in Beijing two days in advance for extensive training and team building exercises in person.
The IOL consists of individual and team contests with unique problems each year. This year’s individual contest, a six-hour test, had problems about Benabena, Kiowa, Tangkin, Engenni, and Gbaya. The team contest involved building a grammar for Armenian and translating the Universal Declaration of Human Rights from Armenian to English. To solve these problems, contestants applied knowledge about the way languages work as well as logic and reasoning skills to decipher unfamiliar languages and writing systems.
In the individual round, two contestants from the North American teams won gold medals: Darryl Wu from USA and Daniel Lovsted from Canada. Four earned silver medals, three earned bronze medals, and three earned honorable mentions. Three North American students earned best solution awards, namely Darryl Wu for Problem 2, Simon Huang for Problem 3, and Catherine Wu for Problem 4. USA Team Red won the prize for the highest combined score in the individual contest with 230 points. Canada finished in second place in this event with 210 points, followed by a three-way tie for third place between Poland 1, China 1, and USA Blue, scoring 192 points each.
In the team round, USA Red won the first prize (29 points), ahead of the two teams from Russia (24 and 23.5 points, respectively).
39 teams from 28 countries competed in the 2014 IOL, the most teams ever. US and Canadian team members were selected from more than 1,600 students who competed in the North American Computational Linguistics Olympiad (NACLO). Profs. Radev and Levin are founders of NACLO.
Prof. James Pustejovsky of Brandeis University led fundraising for the team. 2014 sponsors included Yahoo!, the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics (NAACL), the Linguistic Society of America (LSA), The US National Science Foundation (NSF), Brandeis University, Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Michigan, Université du Québec à Montréal, as well as individual donors and parents.