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Assay and Ace the Language Game: The Singapore Linguistics Olympiad Competition 2021

Written by: Tran Vu Phuong Uyen (21A15) and Tan Yu Yan Rowena (21A12)

Photo by: Dylan Lim Chun Kiat (20S7G)

Oh Chin Aik (20S6N) and Lim Dylan (20S7G) with their Certificates from the Singapore Linguistics Olympiad

2021 marked the return of the Singapore team to the linguistics arena after a six-year hiatus. Organised by SUTD, Singapore Linguistics Olympiad 2021 (SLingO) sought to shortlist Top 15 candidates out of 284 participants to represent Singapore at the International Linguistics Olympiad (IOL). Our Hwa Chong team received outstanding results, with three students clinching positions in the Top 15. Oh Chin Aik (20S6N) and Dylan Lim Chun Kiat (20S7G), two Hwa Chongians who achieved the Silver Medals, shared their experiences at SLingO 2021.

Being in the SMTP-GATE programme, Dylan described his relationship with linguistics as a “one-sided love affair”, which he ultimately pursued at SLingO. Despite hearing about SLingO for the first time, Chin Aik found the rare opportunity that SLingO offered as highly captivating, and a few attempts at past year questions further piqued his interest.

While it was assured that no prior linguistics knowledge was required, SLingO demanded acute logical thinking and pattern recognition skills. The competition proved no easy feat, as the five-hour duration undoubtedly made for a gruelling experience. Chin Aik observed that this experience helped to “hone mental sharpness”. Similarly, Dylan emphasises perseverance through the process of trial and error as the key to success in this competition.

For aspiring SLingO participants, both winners recommended practising with local and overseas problems. In addition, Chin Aik suggests that familiarising yourself with linguistic features, such as the IPA sounds, can be very helpful. Dylan highlights the importance of remaining flexible when encountering languages dramatically different from the ones we speak - those that emerged from cultures distinct from ours. “You have to always think outside the box,” he said.

In all, SLingO exposed students to various languages across the world and encouraged them to further develop their problem-solving and critical thinking skills.

We congratulate the participants for their exemplary performance at SLingO 2021.

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