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It is stated that any single letters or words may be used. However, do those words have to be in English. Specifically, are students allowed to use letter combinations that correspond to chinese characters (pinyin)?

The standard English keyboard is identified for use with all Science Olympiad tournaments. However, each tournament may - at their discretion and announcement to competing teams - provide additional or alternate languages that may be used. If the PC standard 101 keyboard is able to make Chinese characters, this would only be acceptable if the event supervisor has identified non-English language may be used. For nationals, English is the identified language. Using keyboard symbols to create non-English words will not be acceptable.