United Kingdom Linguistics Olympiad

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United Kingdom Linguistics Olympiad
GenreLinguistics Olympiad
CountryUnited Kingdom
Participantsc. 5000
Patron(s)Christine Ohuruogu

The United Kingdom Linguistics Olympiad (UKLO) is a linguistics competition for primary and secondary school students in the United Kingdom.[1][2] The competition is divided into four levels: Breakthrough, Foundation, Intermediate and Advanced, collectively known as 'Round 1', with roughly 16 top-scoring entrants at Advanced level eligible for a follow-on round, called 'Round 2' and selection for participation in the International Linguistics Olympiad, one of the international science olympiads. In 2009, teams from two schools competed in a pilot competition, with the winners taking part in the international contest as guests of the All-Ireland Linguistics Olympiad. In 2010, an independent olympiad was created and has taken place every year since.


Problem-solving competitions in linguistics for secondary school students have been taking place around the world since the 1960s. In Russia, the Moscow and St Petersburg Linguistic Olympiads are credited with inspiring hundreds of young talented scholars to choose linguistics as an academic major and profession. Currently there are national contests within Europe, North and South America, Africa, Asia and Australia. There is also an International Linguistics Olympiad in which students from many countries compete, which began in 2003, and was first hosted by Bulgaria.

In 2009, two UK schools, the Manchester Grammar School and Downlands Community School, took part as guests in the Irish competition, and the winning team represented the UK at the International Olympiad. This triggered the foundation of a permanent committee for the UK Linguistics Olympiad, and the creation of a consortium of olympiads held in English-speaking countries, ELCLO, as a means for pooling resources with NACLO, AILO and OzCLO, the American, Irish and Australian Linguistics Olympiads respectively. The UKLO committee is chaired by Dick Hudson, with Neil Sheldon serving as vice-chair.

In 2010, 560 students from 28 schools entered, 223 at Foundation, and 337 at Advanced level. In 2011, 1165 entries were received from 49 schools, 349 at Foundation, and 816 at Advanced level. 2012 saw the introduction of the Intermediate level, with 1912 entries from 300 schools, 432 at Foundation, 498 at Intermediate and 982 at Advanced level. 2013 saw total entries number 2878, with 1069 at Foundation, 643 at Intermediate and 1166 at Advanced level. In 2015, a new, lowest entry level was introduced, called Breakthrough, with 96 entrants. By 2018, the numbers had increased to 220 in Breakthrough, 1042 at Foundation, 970 at Intermediate and 1650 at Advanced.

The Olympiad has sponsorship and support from various organisations including the British Academy,[3] The Linguistics Association of Great Britain, The British Association for Applied Linguistics, The Philological Society, Routes into Languages,[4] The School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics, University of Sheffield and The School of Philosophy, Psychology & Language Sciences, University of Edinburgh.

The Olympiad has received coverage in the first and second issues of Babel magazine,[5] as well as in the Francophonie journal[6] and Attain magazine.[7] Olympic athlete Christine Ohuruogu MBE is the patron of UKLO, having completed a Linguistics degree at University College London.[8]

The UK has sent a delegation to the International Linguistics Olympiad (IOL) every year since 2009, and has competed in 11 olympiads. They have sent 68 participants in 17 teams, selected through UKLO. In competition, teams from the UK have brought home 34 medals (13 gold, 8 silver and 13 bronze), 3 team trophies (1 gold and 2 bronze), 1 first-place team cup, 3 best solution prizes, and 12 honourable mentions. In addition, the UK has sent 5 Repeat Medalists and 3 Dream Teams to the Hall of Fame.[9] The UK Linguistics Olympiad was the host for the 2013 IOL, held at the Manchester Grammar School and chaired by Neil Sheldon. The competition in Manchester was featured on an edition of BBC Radio Four's Word of Mouth programme centring on language games.[10]


The competition is divided into two rounds. Round 1 is open to all secondary school pupils, while Round 2 is invitation only.

10 linguistic data problems are posed in each year's Round 1 papers, with the Breakthrough paper being 1-3, Foundation 2-5, Intermediate 4-7, and Advanced 6-10. The intention is that each problem is harder than the previous. At Breakthrough, Foundation and Intermediate levels, participants may enter either individually or as part of a group of 2-4 students, and timings and conditions can be decided by schools. At the Advanced level, the competition must take the format of an individual, two and a half hour test sat under controlled conditions.

Roughly 16 of the top scorers from the Advanced paper are invited to participate in Round 2, which takes the form of a residential training weekend at a host university,[11][12] followed by a three-hour test posing five more problems. Eight competitors in two teams from Round 2 are invited to participate in the International Linguistics Olympiad and represent the UK, with selection being based mostly on performance in the Round 2 paper, but past performances at IOL and Round 2 are taken into account, as is performance in the training throughout the weekend.

IOL Teams[edit]

Since 2009, the UK has sent teams annually to the IOL.

2009 - Wrocław, Poland[13][14]
Team Name Award
GB Ben Caller bronze medal
Adam King
Ben Miller
Alex Sheppard
2010 - Stockholm, Sweden[15][16]
Team Name Award
1 Craig Bohrson honourable mention
Alison Coxon
Imogen Nelson
Younus Porteous bronze medal
2 Helen Hambling
Sarah O'Keeffe
Carl Rietschel honourable mention
Nathan Somers best solution to question 5
2011 - Pittsburgh, USA[17][18]
Team Name Award
UK Piotr Gałuszka honourable mention
Jessica Hao
Jake Lishman
Nik Moore bronze medal
2012 - Ljubljana, Slovenia[19]
Team Name Award
UK Melanie Duncan bronze medal
Omri Faraggi bronze medal
Baichuan Li bronze medal
Tom White silver medal

Note: This team was entered into the IOL Hall of Fame as a "Dream Team" because all members of the team received a medal.[20]

2013 - Manchester, UK[21][22]
Team Name Award
North Omri Faraggi silver medal
Harry Goodhew honourable mention
Sam Heath
Neema Kotonya honourable mention
South Daniel Pitt honourable mention
Oliver Sayeed
Theo Tindall honourable mention
Elysia Warner honourable mention
2014 - Beijing, China[23][24]
Team Name Award
UK Alastair Carr honourable mention
Jack Hodkinson
Oliver Sayeed
Elysia Warner gold medal
2015 - Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria[25]
Team Name Award Team Award
East Samuel Ahmed gold medal, 2nd place individual
Samuel Hosegood
Naomi Solomons bronze medal
Isobel Voysey honourable mention
West Anthony Bracey silver medal gold trophy
Liam McKnight gold medal
Harry Taylor honourable mention
Stephanie Wong honourable mention
2016 - Mysore, India[26]
Team Name Award Team Award
UK Samuel Ahmed gold medal bronze trophy
Zeki Dolen
Liam McKnight gold medal, 3rd place individual, best solution to question 1
Isobel Voysey bronze medal
2017 - Dublin, Ireland[27]
Team Name Award Team Award
Team K Samuel Ahmed gold medal, 1st place individual highest combined individual scores
Simeon Hellsten gold medal
Kamran Sharifi
Harry Taylor silver medal
Team U Benjamin Liow
Liam McKnight gold medal, 3rd place individual
Ben Morris silver medal
Alfie Vaughan
2018 - Prague, Czechia
Team Name Award Team Award
Team U Eleanor Edwards bronze trophy
Edmund Lea bronze medal
Selina Wang
Sean White bronze medal, best solution to question 3
Team K Simeon Hellsten silver medal "dream team"
Liam McKnight gold medal, 2nd place individual
Hari Prasad bronze medal
Benedict Randall Shaw gold medal
2019 - Yongin, South Korea
Team Name Award Team Award
Team U Sam Corner gold medal "dream team"
Kilian Meissner bronze medal
Harrison Moore silver medal
Alex Walker bronze medal
Team K Tommaso Leonardi
Simeon Hellsten gold medal
Danien Turaev silver medal
Benedict Randall Shaw gold medal


  1. ^ "Olympic flame burns for young linguists - The Yorker". theyorker.co.uk. Retrieved 2014-01-25.
  2. ^ "UK Linguistics Olympiad". all-languages.org.uk. Retrieved 2014-01-25.
  3. ^ "British Academy Sponsorship". February 2011. Retrieved 28 November 2013.
  4. ^ "UK Linguistics Olympiad registration for 2012 | Routes Into Languages". routesintolanguages.ac.uk. Retrieved 2014-01-25.
  5. ^ "Babel – The language magazine – No 1" (PDF). 24 October 2012. Retrieved 25 January 2014.
  6. ^ Hudson, Richard; Rogers, Vivienne (21 June 2011). "Going for gold with languages" (PDF). Francophonie (44): 22–27. Retrieved 25 January 2014.
  7. ^ "Attain Magazine · Issue 16 · Autumn 2011". attainmagazine.co.uk. Retrieved 2014-01-25.
  8. ^ "Patron". UKLO. 2011-04-09. Retrieved 2018-04-05.
  9. ^ "The UK at the IOL: Results". August 2013. Retrieved 28 October 2013.
  10. ^ "BBC iPlayer - Word of Mouth: Language Games". bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 2014-01-25.
  11. ^ "uklo 2012 - Language and Linguistic Science, The University of York". york.ac.uk. Retrieved 2014-01-25.
  12. ^ "St Mary's Hosts the Finals of the UK Linguistics Olympiad". smuc.ac.uk. Retrieved 2014-01-25.
  13. ^ IOL 2009 Participants
  14. ^ IOL 2009 Results
  15. ^ ILO 2010 Participants
  16. ^ ILO 2010 Results
  17. ^ ILO 2011 Participants
  18. ^ ILO 2011 Results
  19. ^ ILO 2012 Results
  20. ^ http://www.ioling.org/hall_of_fame/
  21. ^ "International Linguistics Olympiad - 2013". ioling.org. Retrieved 2014-01-25.
  22. ^ "Action Network Magazine - Issue 101 - Joomag". joomag.com. Retrieved 2014-01-25.
  23. ^ IOL Results 2014
  24. ^ [1]
  25. ^ IOL 2015 Participants
  26. ^ "2016 | UKLO". uklo.org. Retrieved 2016-04-24.
  27. ^ "International Linguistics Olympiad - 2017 Results". www.ioling.org. Retrieved 2018-03-30.