Drinking Alcohol May Boost Foreign Language Speaking Skills


Drinking that extra beer might not help you when adding up the tab, but it could help you in a foreign country. Scientists from Maastricht University in the Netherlands, the University of Liverpool, and King’s College in London found that moderate alcohol consumption can actually boost foreign language speaking skills.

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“Contrary to what would be expected based on theory, it is a widely held belief among bilingual speakers that alcohol consumption improves foreign language fluency, as is evident in anecdotal evidence from numerous discussions in social and popular media,” said Fritz Renner, of the Maastricht University department of psychology, to the British Psychological Society’s Research Digest.

The researchers gathered 50 native German speakers who recently learned Dutch, and randomized participants to receive low doses of alcohol or control beverages containing no alcohol at all. The native German speakers were all second-year students pursuing an undergraduate degree in psychology at Maastricht University.

The students drank either 250 milliliters, or almost 8.5 ounces, of either vodka or water. The researchers aimed to increase the blood alcohol concentration in those drinking alcohol by 0.04 percent.

Fifteen minutes after drinking, the students then were instructed to participate in two-minute arguments for or against animal testing while speaking Dutch. Two native Dutch speakers judged students’ performances without knowledge of what the students had consumed by listening to audio recordings of the arguments.

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The participants who had consumed alcohol were given significantly better ratings for their Dutch language by the native Dutch speakers themselves. Judgments including significantly better pronunciation versus those who consumed water.

The students also rated themselves on their Dutch speaking skills. The alcohol had no effect on self-ratings, the study said.

“The findings of this study need replication in future studies, testing participants learning languages other than Dutch and varying the amount of alcohol that is consumed to further explore the effects of acute alcohol consumption or foreign language proficiency,” the researchers said in the study.

The researchers said alcohol consumption may have beneficial effects on the pronunciation of a foreign language in people who have recently learned the language. The study appears in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.