Many of our students might agree that after a drink their language skills improve! But now a study by European universities has shown they are right.
Alcohol, as we all know, affects our memory, concentration and behaviour, as well as body movements. Too much alcohol can make it hard to speak English, let alone another language! On the other hand, alcohol also acts as a disinhibitor. Lack of confidence and social anxiety can make people wary of speaking a foreign language, but alcohol can certainly have the effect of loosening us.
In line with our expectations, the researchers showed that after consuming a low dose of alcohol bilingual speakers’ ability to speak a second language is improved.
The researchers tested the effects of a low dose of alcohol on 50 native German speakers who were learning Dutch. The amount of alcohol was the equivalent of a pint of beer – adjusted a little higher for higher body weight or lower for lighter participants. There was also a control group who did not consume alcohol. The conversations were recorded, and their ability to converse in Dutch was measured by observers and rated by the participants themselves.
Participants who had consumed alcohol had significantly better ratings from the observers, compared to those who had not. Interestingly they had higher scores for pronunciation, maybe because the disinhibiting effects of alcohol helped them move their faces better to fit the Dutch words?
Dr Fritz Renner who was one of the researchers who conducted the study at Maastricht University, said: “It is important to point out that participants in this study consumed a low dose of alcohol. Higher levels of alcohol consumption might not have beneficial effects on the pronunciation of a foreign language.”
Give it a go! Try a small glass of alcohol before speaking in the foreign language you are learning, and see if it helps you relax and make those funny sounds more easily!