“Jane is molistic and slatty,” is a nonsensical sentence, but what does it mean? This is just one piece of many puzzles presented to students who participate in the North American Computational Linguistics Olympiad (NACLO).
This is a contest in which high-school students solve linguistic puzzles and learn about the diversity and consistency of language while exercising logic skills. Superior grades 6-12 is the only school in Montana to participate in NACLO, said Superior English teacher Beth Keyser.
This is their first year and she has seven students who are participating with the help of Spanish and math teacher Beth Janey and Jared Hopewell, a linguistic student at the University of Montana.
“The puzzles can be intimidating but the kids are really going after them,” Keyser said. They had their first contest on Jan. 24 where they competed with approximately 1,700 other students across the nation. They don’t have their test results back yet; however, the top 10 percent winners go on to compete at the Invitational Round in March. The winner from that competition will go to nationals, which will be held in Korea this year.
Student compete individually for three hours on puzzles which cover foreign languages, pictures and syntax. They test online and compete with other students across the nation. Superior is a host for the testing and helps to register kids, gets the test ready, provide the space and submits results. Keyser hopes the UM eventually becomes a host site and more Montana school will get involved. Funding for their club is made possible through the Afterschool Program.
“These are talented kids and they are very good at it,” she said. “There’s something about language that can feel different yet be logical. Once they solve the problems, students become more confident and get better and better at it.”