LIVERPOOL, England — It might help to take a drink before showing off your skills at a second language, a new study finds.
Researchers at a trio of European universities recruited 50 German students studying in the Netherlands for an experiment on how low doses of alcohol affect one’s ability to speak a foreign language— in this case, Dutch.
Half of the experiment’s participants were asked to drink the equivalent of one pint of beer for roughly every 150 pounds of body weight, while the remaining half served as a control group that consumed a non-alcoholic beverage.
The participants, all of whom had recently learned to converse in Dutch, were asked to chat with a native Dutch speaker, who wasn’t privy to whether the conversant had previously consumed alcohol.
Subsequently, both the speakers and observers were asked to assess the performance of the former.
Interestingly, observers reported that speakers who had consumed alcohol demonstrated better pronunciation; speakers, meanwhile, did not award themselves with better self-ratings.
“Our study shows that acute alcohol consumption may have beneficial effects on the pronunciation of a foreign language in people who recently learned that language,” says Dr. Inge Kersbergen, who teaches at the University of Liverpool, in a school press release. “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.”
One obvious caveat for the researchers’ findings is that increasingly higher levels of intoxication likely do not further assist language proficiency.
Nonetheless, it is believed the study’s observable effect is the result of alcohol reducing an individual’s level of anxiety.
Ultimately, getting drunk may loosen your inhibitions, but it probably won’t make you more fluent in a foreign language.
The full study was published Oct. 18 in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.
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