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How drinking alcohol can actually help you learn a new language…

Well actually it is more about the fact that a little bit of booze lowers our inhibitions enough to give us the confidence to speak to native speakers and to embrace the accent of the country whose language we have been learning.

After 1 pint of beer, for example, we tend to worry less about grammatical accuracy and the mistakes we could make thereby adopting a more relaxed attitude to speaking a foreign language. The older you get, the more self-conscious you become about changing your accent and saying things out loud that might not be 100% correct. Oh to be 6 again and simply repeat what you hear and in the accent it is spoken!

How did the study work?

British and Dutch researchers recently tested this theory in an experiment, which was published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology. The study included 50 native German speakers studying at Maastricht University in the Netherlands. The students took classes in Dutch, and passed a test making them proficient speakers.

The researchers split the students into two groups, giving one alcohol and the other water. Each person then had a short conversation in Dutch with an interviewer, which was recorded and scored by native Dutch speakers. The participants also ranked their own performance on how well they spoke.

The research found that the self-ratings weren’t affected by drinking or not drinking. The native Dutch speakers, however, found that those who had consumed alcohol had better pronunciation and fluency.

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So should we crack open a bottle of wine before going to our language classes?

According to brainscape.com you shouldn’t go running for a bottle of Jack Daniels as your language-improvement solution just yet! There are two major downsides to this strategy. “The first is that despite your increased confidence and fluidity, you are also likely to make many more grammatical and pronunciation errors, and perhaps even ingraining bad habits that will persist back into sobriety.

The second downside is that any improvements in confidence/fluidity that may be experienced while drunk are unfortunately short-lived. If you rely on alcohol as your primary facilitator of communication, than you might end up resorting to alcoholism to master your language of preference! Not a good plan.

The important lesson to learn here is that the seemingly positive effects of alcohol on foreign language fluency are not due to alcohol at all. They are due to confidence in your skills”.

If you build confidence by practising speaking in group or 1-2-1 lessons with a native speaker you will experience much better improvements in your language skills than you would from a bottle of wine.

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