Ben LaFond makes U.S. team for International Linguistics Olympiad

Ben LaFond I

By virtue of his outstanding performance in the 2018 North American Computational Linguistics Olympiad (NACLO), Class I’s Ben LaFond has been selected as one of eight high school students who will represent the United States at this summer’s International Linguistics Olympiad (IOL) in Prague.


More than 1,700 students from the U.S. and Canada participate yearly in the NACLO, which offers young people an opportunity to experience natural-language processing through a series of linguistic puzzles designed to teach students about the universal features of and differences between languages and to test logic skills. No prior study of languages or linguistics is required. Puzzles include translation problems, number problems, writing systems, calendar systems, formal problems, phonological problems, and computational problems. Contestants will also find themselves deciphering kinship systems, transcribing spoken dialogue, associating sentences with images, and translating unknown languages from scratch.


After two rounds of testing, the top NACLO scorers are sent to represent North America at the IOL. One of twelve International Science Olympiads for high-school students, IOL advertises itself as “the world’s toughest puzzles in language and linguistics.” After four days of training at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Ben will fly to Prague with the USA Red and USA Blue teams to participate over five days in late July in individual and team-based contests, see sights around the city, and mingle with young linguists from 41 countries around the globe.