Does alcohol really improve your foreign language skills? Posted by Kasia on Apr 30, 2019 in Countries, friends, Languages, Science
Learning a foreign language can make you smarter, build multitasking and decision-making skills, ward off Alzheimer’s, improve memory, and much more. It is easier to travel and meet new people in other country if you can have a conversation in their native language, right?
Lots of people say they speak a foreign language (obcy język) better after a drink or two. I remember this one situation from when I was in high school. Students from Germany were visiting our school and all of us were competing in different sport games. They were staying in our town and we spent quite a lot of time in bars and coffee shops together. I noticed that some of my friends, who had problems with German every day in school, were speaking German perfectly fine and without being shy when we were out with our new German friends drinking (and I just want to be clear – legal drinking age in Poland is 18, so we were not doing anything illegal:)). Just like that!
So why is it that people seem so much better at speaking their second language after a beer or two?
To answer that question, British and Dutch researchers conducted an experiment, published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology in October 2017. And it turns out, people in the study really did speak more fluently (płynnie) after a low dose of alcohol, even when they didn’t think so themselves.
Researchers from the University of Liverpool, Maastricht University, and King’s College London gathered 50 native German speakers, all of whom had recently learned to speak Dutch at Maastricht. The participants were then either given a low dose of alcohol (mała dawka alkoholu) or a control beverage that contained no alcohol, and were asked to have a conversation in Dutch for a few minutes. The conversations were recorded, and then rated by two native Dutch speakers who were unaware of which participants were given alcohol. The subjects who were slightly intoxicated received better ratings than their sober colleagues, particularly when it came to pronunciation!
So why exactly does booze help us with this particular skill? It might seem contradictory (sprzeczne), since alcohol impairs cognitive functions like the ability to pay attention and remember facts. But it also lowers our social anxiety (lęk społeczny) and boosts our self-confidence (pewność siebie), which helps us when speaking to another person. It is important to point out that participants in this study consumed a low dose of alcohol.
So if you’re trying to learn a new language, it appears that a little bit of alcohol can go a long way to help:)
Want to hear more? Sign up for one of our newsletters!
For more language learning advice, free resources, and information about how we can help you reach your language goals, select the most relevant newsletter(s) for you and sign up below.