What is NACLO?

NACLO stands for the North American Computational Linguistics Open Competition.  Contestants compete by solving compelling and creative puzzles in linguistics and computational linguistics.

NACLO is –

  • Free to participate
  • Pen and pencil
  • For high school (and middle school) students

Last year, more than 1500 students across North America (including about 100 Canadian students) participated in the contest.

What if I don’t know anything about linguistics or computer science?

Not an issue. Problems in NACLO no previous knowledge of linguistics, languages, or computing. These puzzles can be solved by analytic reasoning alone. A lot of successful contestants didn’t know very much about linguistics when they did the Olympiad.

What are the problems like?

Past problems include correcting bad machine translation,  writing rules for some Orwellian grammar, translating Braille- the writing system for the blind, and figuring out the number system of Irish.

Take a moment to think about this problem (from NACLO ’09):

Tenji Problem

Here’s the solution:

Tenji Solution

Here are some other sample problems, and their solutions. Please see the Resources page for more problems.

What happens if I do well in the contest?

If you do well enough in the Open Round, you advance to the Invitational Round in March. Winners of the invitational can represent Canada in the International Linguistics Olympiad (IOL).

How long is the contest?

The Open Round is 3 hours long, and the Invitational Round is 4 hours.