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Alcohol may boost foreign language skills

Nov 9, 2017
London, Struggling to gain efficiency in foreign language? According to a study, drinking a pint of beer may help you learn the new tongue much better.

Researchers said it was well known that alcohol impairs cognitive, motor functions as well as executive mental functions, which include the ability to remember, pay attention and inhibit inappropriate behaviours.

Executive functions are also important when speaking a second, non-native language, so alcohol was expected to reduce the ability to speak a second language.

However, the findings showed that alcohol increases self-confidence and reduces social anxiety, both of which might be expected to improve language ability when interacting with another person.

“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,” said Inge Kersbergen, from the University of Liverpool.

“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,” Kersbergen added.

Furthermore, many bilingual speakers believe that alcohol can improve their ability to speak a second language, the researchers said, in a paper published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.

For the study, the team tested the effects of a low dose of alcohol -- just under a pint (460ml) of 5 per cent beer, for a 70 kg male -- on participants’ self-rated and observer-rated ability to converse in Dutch.

Participants who had consumed alcohol had significantly better observer-ratings for their Dutch language, specifically better pronunciation, compared to those who had not consumed alcohol, the researchers found.

One possible reason could be the anxiety-reducing effect of alcohol. Nevertheless, “we need to be cautious about the implications of these results until we know more about what causes the observed results”, the researchers noted.

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