It’s no secret that alcohol affects motor function, speech, short-term memory, and lowers inhibitions. Now you can add improved foreign language skills to that list.
When consumed in excess, alcohol affects these faculties negatively in manners such as trouble balancing, reaction time, slurred speech, and memory loss. However, the results of a new study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology suggest that low doses of alcohol may improve foreign language skills.
The University of Liverpool, Maastricht University, and King’s College London performed an experiment to determine the effects of low doses of alcohol on the ability to speak a foreign language. The study examined 50 German speakers that were in the process of learning Dutch at Maastricht University. The participants were separated into two groups, with one group consuming alcohol and another group consuming a non-alcoholic beverage as the control group. The alcohol group was given a pint of beer with an ABV of 5%.
The participants then spoke with two Dutch speakers for a few minutes, and the conversations were recorded. The native Dutch speakers did not know which subjects had consumed alcohol prior to speaking with them, and subsequently were able to objectively score the participants’ Dutch language skills. The subjects of the experiment also rated themselves following the conversation.
While the self-ratings were inconclusive, the researchers found that participants that had consumed alcohol had observably better Dutch language skills, particularly when it came to pronunciation than participants who were sober. These results suggest that the conventional wisdom that alcohol helps one speak a foreign language more fluently may hold water. However, the researchers were careful to point out that while low doses of alcohol may have helped speakers relax, and thus perform better, high doses of alcohol would have likely been detrimental to speech function. Furthermore, the research only suggests a correlation between low doses of alcohol and aptitude in foreign language, and doesn’t necessarily prove a causal effect.