We all know that, among its effects, alcohol can lower inhibitions. Now a study suggests that this can, in turn, help folks speak a second language with a bit more confidence. And maybe just a touch of slurring.
Published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, the study found that students who were learning a second language spoke that language better after consuming just under a pint of 5 percent alcohol beer.
"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," Inge Kersbergen of the University of Liverpool, and one of the of the researchers involved in the study, said in a statement. "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 small study worked like this. Fifty male German students who were learning Dutch at Maastricht University in the the Netherlands were randomized to receive an alcoholic or non-alcoholic drink before talking with a researcher in Dutch for a few minutes. The alcoholic content of the boozy drink varied depending on the weight of the participant, but it was the equivalent of just under a pint of 5 percent beer.
The conversation was recorded and then evaluated by two native Dutch speakers who didn't know if the student had consumed any alcohol. The participants evaluated their own performance as well.
The alcohol didn't influence the self-evaluations in any way — maybe they needed another drink? — but the native speakers' evaluations found that those students who consumed alcoholic beverages spoke better Dutch, specifically having better pronunciation, than those who didn't have a beer.
"One possible mechanism could be the anxiety-reducing effect of alcohol," said Jessica Werthmann of Maastricht, one of the researchers for the study.
And there's probably a point of diminishing returns with this strategy, as pointed out by Fritz Renner, another researcher from Maastricht.
"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."
So maybe don't get sloshed before your next oral exam in Spanish.