Against all the odds, it turns out drunken Brits abroad might actually heighten their foreign language skills with a tipple or two.
After two pints and three sheets to the wind you might think you’ve mastered the art of another’s mother tongue.
Lowered inhibitions, cocky hand gestures, the trademark signs of alcohol consumption; they all might make you feel like less of a tourist in a country where you don’t know the language.
But is that just the booze talking?
British and Dutch researchers conducted an experiment, published this week in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, and it turns out, people in the study really did speak more fluently after a low dose of alcohol – even when they didn’t think they were doing that well themselves.
The research tested 50 native German speakers who were studying at Maastricht University, in the Netherlands near the border with Germany, who drank alcohol sometimes and had recently passed an exam demonstrating proficiency in Dutch as part of their degree.
The study saw the volunteers split into two groups.
One group was given a glass of water and the other just under a pint of beer, before they were put to task having a chat with a native Dutch speaker in the participants’ non-native language.
The conversations were recorded and scored by two native Dutch speakers – who had no idea which people had consumed alcohol and which were stone cold sober.
The participants were also asked to rate their own performances, based on how fluently they felt they’d spoken.
According to the paper, titled Dutch Courage?:
Participants who consumed alcohol had significantly better observer-ratings for their Dutch language, specifically better pronunciation, compared with those who did not consume alcohol.
However, alcohol had no effect on self-ratings of Dutch language skills.
The authors of the paper, Fritz Renner, Inge Kersbergen, Matt Field, and Jessica Werthmann, say it’s possible a little drop of alcohol ‘reduces language anxiety’ and therefore increases proficiency.
This might enable foreign language speakers to speak more fluently in the foreign language after drinking a small amount of alcohol.
Acute alcohol consumption may have beneficial effects on the pronunciation of a foreign language in people who have recently learned that language.
The authors pointed out the dosage of booze used in the study as pretty small, especially for Brits abroad on the sesh, coming in at the equivalent of just under a pint for a man weighing 150 pounds.
So, needless to say, if you’re planning on necking absinthe all night, the results probably won’t be the same.
Also, you probably shouldn’t do that anyway.
If you’re not a big drinker, there are other other solutions to learning a language and becoming fluent in a foreign tongue – it doesn’t just require Dutch courage…
Especially if you’re no good with learning languages.
Check out these in-ear translation headphones courtesy of UNILAD Tech:
[ooyala player_id=”5df2ff5a35d24237905833bd032cd5d8″ auto=”true” width=”1280″ height=”720″ autoplay=”true” pcode=”twa2oyOnjiGwU8-cvdRQbrVTiR2l” code=”9ocmw1ZTE6g-LErFQfbnPXrl7rjF9VS1″]
In the meantime, we’re taking this to mean we can enjoy all the French wine and German beer while on our jollies, because it’s good for international relations and broadening our linguistic and cultural horizons.
Drink responsibly, kids.
A former emo kid who talks too much about 8Chan meme culture, the Kardashian Klan, and how her smartphone is probably killing her. Francesca is a Cardiff University Journalism Masters grad who has done words for BBC, ELLE, The Debrief, DAZED, an art magazine you’ve never heard of and a feminist zine which never went to print.