Alcohol can ‘improve foreign language skills’

19th October, 2017 by Michael J Ritchie

A new study has found that a low dose of alcohol improves bilingual speakers’ ability to speak their second language.

German speakers were noted to have a marked improvement in their spoken Dutch after consuming a small amount of alcohol

The research, published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, was conducted by the University of Liverpool, King’s College London and Maastricht University.

Participants were randomly divided and given either a low alcohol drink or one with no alcohol in it at all. The exact dose of alcohol was dependent on participants’ body weight, but it was equivalent to just under a pint of 5% beer for a 70kg male.

The test was completed by 50 native German speakers who had recently learned to write, read and speak in Dutch while attending Maastricht University. After each had consumed their drink, they engaged in conversation with an experimenter in Dutch. Conservations were then recorded and analysed by native Dutch speakers.

The results showed that participants who had consumed alcohol had ” significantly better observer-ratings for their Dutch language” with “specifically better pronunciation”. Alcohol did not affect “self-ratings” on Dutch language skills.

The study set out to investigate the lay belief that alcohol improves foreign language speaking. It is thought that alcohol reduces social anxiety and increases self-confidence, both of which could be contributing factors in communicating with other people.

Dr Fritz Renner, of Maastricht University, noted: “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.”

The study, entitled ‘Dutch courage? Effects of acute alcohol consumption on self-ratings and observer-ratings of foreign language skills’, is available in its entirety online.

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