Carmel Valley student wins silver at Linguistics Olympiad as U.S. team wins gold

Catherine Wu, right, won the silver medal at the 12th International Linguistics Olympiad. The U.S. team won the gold. Courtesy photo

On July 21-25, eight American students traveled to Beijing, China, to join 38 other teams from 28 countries around the world at the 12th International Linguistics Olympiad. Catherine Wu, a former Canyon Crest Academy student who just graduated in June 2014, received the Silver Medal, and the USA team won the Gold Medal.

Catherine won the Gold Medal at the 24th International Biology Olympiad at Switzerland last year, and this is her second time to win the International level competition at the different subjects.

The International Linguistics Olympiad, one of international science Olympiads, consists of two events. The first is the individual contest, a six-hour test, which this year had problems about Benabena, Kiowa, Tangkin, Engenni and Gbaya. The second event is the team contest, which this year involved building a grammar for Armenian and translating the Universal Declaration of Human Rights from Armenian to English.

To solve these problems, contestants must apply knowledge about the way languages work as well as logic and reasoning skills to decipher unfamiliar languages and writing systems. The Team USA was selected through the North American Computational Linguistics Olympiad. This annual competition, held since 2007, has two rounds, which are held at universities and high schools throughout the USA and Canada.

“I was really excited that I made the International Linguistics team,” Catherine said. “The IOL was a great experience since it let me get to know people with similar interests from all over the U.S. and all over the world.”