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10 Language Contests for High School Students

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Notes with different French words.

10 Language Contests for High School Students

Are you passionate about languages and looking to showcase your skills? The world of language contests offers a unique stage to do just that. These contests aren’t just about winning; they are about exploring new linguistic horizons, challenging yourself, and connecting with others who share your passion.

Whether you’re a high school student or an undergraduate, these competitions provide a platform to demonstrate your proficiency, gain recognition, and even open doors to new opportunities.

1. National Language Arts Olympiad

  • Location: Conducted at various participating schools
  • Cost: $110 for the first two teams from each school and $60 for each additional team.
  • Program Date: April 22 – May 3, 2024
  • Application Deadline: May 20, 2024
  • Eligibility: Students from primary school to high school

The National Language Arts Olympiad is a distinguished academic competition that evaluates students’ abilities in various language arts domains such as grammar, vocabulary, comprehension, and writing skills. This competition, open to students from primary school to high school, is designed to challenge and enhance their knowledge and skills in language arts. 

The competition structure of the National Language Arts Olympiad includes multiple-choice questions appropriate for each grade level, covering topics like spelling, vocabulary, reading comprehension, analogies, and grammar. The contests for grades 2, 3, and 4 comprise 25 to 35 questions, while the contests for other grades consist of 50 questions each. These contests are timed, with a limit of 35 minutes, and can be conveniently administered within one class period

2. Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee

  • Location: Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center, National Harbor, Maryland
  • Cost: Unspecified
  • Program Date: May 28 – May 30, 2024
  • Application Deadline: Unspecified
  • Eligibility: students who have not completed the eighth grade and have not reached their 15th birthday

The Scripps National Spelling Bee is a prestigious annual language contest that celebrates academic achievement and linguistic prowess among young students in the United States. Since its inception in 1925, the Spelling Bee has become a hallmark of educational excellence, offering a platform for students to showcase their spelling and vocabulary skills. 

The competition starts at the grassroots level with millions of students participating in local classroom, school, and regional spelling bees. Those who excel in these initial rounds earn the opportunity to compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee, held annually during the week following Memorial Day. The 2024 Scripps National Spelling Bee is scheduled to take place the week of Memorial Day at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland. The E.W. Scripps Company, which has hosted the Bee since 1941, organizes it on a non-profit basis, with the event being a celebration of literacy and learning for children across America​​​​​​.

3. Olympiada of Spoken Russian

  • Location: College of Wooster campus
  • Cost: $6 each student
  • Program Date: Sunday, February 25, 2024, from 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM
  • Application Deadline: February 21, 2024
  • Eligibility: All undergraduate students of Russian in Ohio

The Olympiada of Spoken Russian is a distinctive and engaging event, unique in the United States, offering a platform for students to demonstrate their proficiency in Russian. This competition allows you to earn recognition for your efforts in mastering Russian, a language known for its complexity. By participating, you can showcase your skills in various areas such as grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation.

Organized by the American Council of Teachers of Russian (ACTR), the Olympiada consists of competitive stages at local, regional, and national levels, drawing participants from high schools, colleges, and universities. The initial local contests, usually organized by educational institutions, offer you a chance to display your language abilities and cultural knowledge in a familiar setting. Regional competitions, often hosted by a college or university, provide a broader range of challenges and the chance to compete against peers from different schools. 

The National Olympiada, organized by the ACTR, is the culmination of these events, featuring the most skilled participants in a comprehensive assessment of Russian language proficiency and cultural understanding.

high school students inside a classroom

4. WordMasters Challenge

  • Location: All participating schools
  • Cost: $105 per grade team
  • Program Date: October 1, 2023 – March 29, 2024
  • Application Deadline: October 1, 2023
  • Eligibility: Students in grades 3-8

The WordMasters Challenge™ is tailored for students in grades 3-8 and involves nearly 3,000 teams from across the United States and several foreign countries. Throughout the school year, participants engage in three separate competitions, spaced about two months apart. Each competition centers around a set of 25 words, with the difficulty increasing at each grade level. 

The first competition tests students on the initial 25 words, the second on a cumulative total of 50 words (including 25 new words), and the third encompasses all 75 words learned over the course of the year. The aim of the WordMasters Challenge™ is to foster growth not only in vocabulary but also in critical thinking and verbal reasoning skills. The competition takes place within the school premises, making it accessible for all participating students. Homeschooled students can also join the challenge, ensuring a broad and inclusive participation​​​​​​​​.

5. National French Contest, Le Grand Concours

  • Location: Held in various educational institutions across the United States and abroad
  • Cost: $7.00 per individual test
  • Program Date: February 12 – April 8, 2024
  • Application Deadline: March 4, 2024 for grades 1-6 & April 4, 2024 for grades 7-12
  • Eligibility: Students of French in grades 1-12, including those in all 50 states and abroad

The National French Contest, also known as Le Grand Concours, is a prestigious annual competition sponsored by the American Association of Teachers of French (AATF). It’s designed for students of French in grades 1-12, across all 50 states and even abroad. This language contest is divided into two main parts: the FLES Contest for grades 1-6 and the Secondary Contest for grades 7-12, covering levels 01-5​​​​​​.

The contest has a variety of divisions, categorized based on the student’s background in French, ensuring a fair competition for all. These divisions range from Division A, intended for those with no French background, to Division C, for native speakers or those with extensive French experience. There’s even a Division AP for students taking AP French. The contest encompasses a written test that evaluates your comprehension and language skills. Participation requires registration through a French teacher, and the contest dates for 2024 are set for February 12 to April 8, depending on the grade level​​​​.

grammar, learn language concept, word from wooden letters

6. National German Exam

  • Location: Online
  • Cost: $8 per student
  • Program Date: December 1, 2023 – January 31, 2024 & April 1, 2024 – April 30, 2024
  • Application Deadline: March 15, 2024
  • Eligibility: High school students

The National German Exam (NGE), now in its 64th year, is a notable assessment tool for high school students studying German. Administered annually to over 15,000 students, the exam measures performance in reading and listening, reflecting the typical content taught in German classrooms. Although it’s not a proficiency test, the NGE offers valuable individual diagnostic feedback for both students and teachers, aiding in curricular decisions. This exam aligns with the World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages and the 2012 ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines, ensuring it meets high educational standards.

Participation in the NGE comes with several benefits. Students receive certificates and may earn gold, silver, or bronze medals based on their percentile rankings. Those ranking highest are also recognized on the NGE Results and Honor Roll page. Moreover, high-performing students can apply for the AATG/PAD NGE Scholarship, which includes a three-week trip to Germany, attending classes at a German high school and participating in cultural excursions. This scholarship, supported by the German government, is available to students in the 90th percentile or higher, among other eligibility criteria.

7. National Greek Exam

  • Location: Conducted at various educational institutions across the United States and other countries
  • Cost: $4.00 per exam for both digital and print copies
  • Program Date: February 27 to March 17, 2024
  • Application Deadline: January 15, 2024
  • Eligibility: High school students 

The National Greek Exam (NGE) is an esteemed assessment organized annually by the American Classical League (ACL). This exam is specifically tailored for students in the United States who are studying Ancient Greek. It’s an incredible opportunity for you to showcase your proficiency in Greek grammar, vocabulary, syntax, and your ability to read and translate passages from Greek literature. 

The NGE is typically taken by high school students enrolled in a Greek course, but it’s open to learners at all levels. It offers a comprehensive measure of your understanding of Ancient Greek, graded on a scale from 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest. This exam is part of the ACL’s broader initiative to promote classical languages and cultures in American education. The NGE offers various exams catering to different proficiency levels, including Introduction to Greek, Intermediate and Advanced levels, and specialized exams in Homeric and Attic Greek. Beginner Japanese language learner writing Hello word in Japanese kanji characters on a notebook close-up shot

8. National Japan Bowl

  • Location: 1819 L St NW, Suite 410, Washington, DC 20036
  • Cost: Unspecified
  • Program Date: April 18-19, 2024
  • Application Deadline: Monday, January 29, 2024
  • Eligibility: High school students

The National Japan Bowl is America’s premier Japanese-language contest for high school students. In its 32nd year, the competition is organized by the Japan-America Society of Washington DC and will be held on April 18-19, 2024. Each spring, 200 of the top high school students proficient in Japanese from across the United States converge in Washington, D.C., for this event. 

To complete the application, teacher or lead chaperone registration forms, individual student registrations, and any observer or additional chaperone forms, along with the necessary payments, must be submitted. The competition guide for 2024 was made available for download starting July 1, 2023. The National Japan Bowl also holds information sessions to assist and inform participants and educators about the competition. The Japan-America Society of Washington DC, located at 1819 L St NW, Suite 410, Washington, DC 20036, administers the event.

9. National Latin Exam

  • Location: Educational institutions across the United States
  • Cost: $6.00 per exam
  • Program Date: February 26 to March 15, 2024
  • Application Deadline: January 26, 2024 for paper exams & February 16, 2024 for online exams
  • Eligibility: Students at various levels of Latin study

The National Latin Exam (NLE) offers you a unique opportunity to test and showcase your knowledge of Latin. This prestigious language contest evaluates your understanding of the Latin language and culture. You will have 40 multiple-choice questions to answer within 45 minutes, challenging your skills in this ancient language. The exam is open to students with varying levels of expertise, offering seven different levels to accommodate different stages of learning Latin.

These levels range from Introduction to Latin for beginners to more advanced exams like Advanced Latin Prose and Advanced Latin Poetry. The test not only assesses your grasp of Latin vocabulary and grammar but also your ability to interpret and understand Latin literature and culture​​. After the exams, you can expect a packet including awards, certificates of school participation, printouts of student scores, national norms, and answer keys for all exams to be mailed to your Latin teacher by April 20. The awards range from special certificates for perfect papers to gold and silver medals for top scorers. 

10. National Spanish Exam

  • Location: Online
  • Cost: $5.00 per student
  • Program Date: Unspecified
  • Application Deadline: February 9, 2024
  • Eligibility: Students in grades 6 through 12

The National Spanish Exam (NSE) is an online, standardized assessment competition for students in grades 6 through 12 across the United States. Administered by the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese (AATSP), the NSE measures performance (interpretive communication) and achievement in the Spanish language. It is an annual event participated in by about 4,000 middle and high school teachers to assess their students’ proficiency in Spanish as a second language.

The NSE is divided into multiple levels, from Novice to Distinguished, based on the students’ Spanish proficiency. Each exam level includes a multiple-choice section and a free-response section, encompassing vocabulary and grammar (Achievement exam, 40 minutes) and reading and listening (Proficiency exam, 40 minutes). High achievers in the NSE are recognized as National Spanish Exam Scholars and may be eligible for various awards and recognitions from the AATSP. These awards include Premio de Oro (95th percentile and above), Premio de Plata (85th to 94th percentiles), Premio de Bronce (75th to 84th percentiles), Mención Honorífica (50th to 74th percentiles), and Perfect Score medals for those who answer every question correctly. 

a group of foreign students carrying the flag of the country they are from

Final Thoughts

As you look towards your future, remember that participating in language contests like the WordMasters Challenge, or the Olympiada of Spoken Russian, is more than just an academic exercise. It’s a journey into the heart of language, culture, and communication. These experiences shape not just your language skills but also your global perspective and cultural understanding.

So, take these opportunities to challenge yourself, connect with peers, and embrace the vibrant world of language and culture that awaits you. The skills and experiences you gain will undoubtedly become invaluable assets in your personal and professional life.

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