Science: Drinking Really Does Improve Your Foreign Language Skills


Learning a foreign language is a great exercise for the mind. You memorize vocabulary, drill grammar into your head, and watch a lot of videos to practice. Then you have to actually open your mouth and speak … real words … in another language with a different accent than your native brogue. It’s a monumental hurdle to overcome when learning a new tongue. And it turns out that drinking a beer might help you loosen up enough to dive into some new speaking skills.

A joint-study conducted at the University of Liverpool, Maastricht University, and King’s College London set about to ask if the increase in self-confidence and lowering of social anxiety many of us experience when we tie one on has a positive effect on our ability to speak a newly learned foreign language. What piqued their interest was the adverse effects of booze which are the loss of motor skills and cognitive functions. We know, what will these whacky scientists think up next, right?

The researchers set out to answer their question with a double-blind and placebo heavy experiment where 50 German students, who are studying in Maastricht and recently started learning Dutch, would be randomly fed drinks — some with alcohol, some without. On the other side of the experiment, Dutch colleagues had a chat with Germans in Dutch after the ‘drinks’ were administered. The dose of alcohol was the equivalent of one pint of beer at around seven percent ABV. So an icebreaker if you will.

According to the study, those who did get the dose of beer had “significantly better observer-ratings for their Dutch language, specifically better pronunciation, compared to those who had not consumed alcohol.” In essence, a pint of beer loosened up the Germans enough to speak Dutch better — which sounds like the answer to a riddle a troll would ask at some Alpine castle gate. “How do you make a German speak Dutch?” “Hmmmm, feed him a beer…” “You shall pass!”

Dr. Inge Kersbergen, from the University of Liverpool, notes that “this provides some support for the lay belief (among bilingual speakers) that a low dose of alcohol can improve their ability to speak a second language.” The doctors involved in the study stressed that these results were very preliminary and that the single dose of alcohol doesn’t mean a whole lot. Getting ripped on a bottle of tequila probably isn’t going to help you speak Spanish any better. In fact, it’ll probably severely impair your ability to speak English to the extent that English will sound like your second language.

(Via Science Daily)