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Linguistics, Tips

Science Confirms: Alcohol Does Make You Speak Better In A Foreign Language

If there was a type of potion that would magically improve your foreign language skills, would you take it?

Turns out the answer had been right in front of us the whole time. Anyone who has ever learned a foreign language and then had a conversation in that language while under the influence of alcohol has probably thought “Damn, why was I so much better than I normally am?”

You weren’t the only one thinking that, and the hypothesis reached the academic community. Researchers from the University of Liverpool, Kings’s College in London and the University of Maastricht joined fores to prove what we had all long been suspecting – that alcohol actually does improve your speaking skills in a foreign language.

At the University of Maastricht they did a study with 50 native German students who were studying there and had recently begun learning the local language – Dutch.

All these students had recently passed a language exam to attest to their level of Dutch. Then the group was separated into two. One group got alcoholic beverages while the other were served a non-alcoholic variant.

The students were then asked to have a two minute conversation in Dutch with a native speaker. The conversations were recorded and the Dutch conversational partners were asked to give a score to the abilities of the student without knowing whether they had consumed alcohol or not.

Interestingly the alcohol had no effect on how the students themselves rated the conversation, but scored significantly better in the ratings given by their Dutch conversation partners. Especially on their pronunciation the native speakers gave much higher scores to those who had consumed alcohol in comparison to those who didn’t.

For all of us who feel a bit of fear and hesitation when speaking in a foreign language this is great news! Getting that glass of wine or beer can give you a little bit of ‘Dutch courage*’ (pun intended)

It should be noted that the research was only done with small amounts of alcohol that will help you get over the fear of making mistakes which might make your speech more fluent, but large amounts of alcohol will probably not improve your speaking abilities in any language.

 

*Dutch courage also happened to be the name of the study. 

Expressions, Tips

Are You Barking Up The Wrong Tree? 10 English Idioms Explained

Ever wondered what the English are actually on about? Why it’s tipping it down, or raining cats and dogs? Then this article is for you! Keep reading to find out the meanings of 10 English idiomatic expressions.

 

  1. Too many cooks spoil the broth

This is more of a traditional English idiom, which basically means that if too many people get involved in something, it can cause problems and ruin the expected outcome.

For instance: if there are 20 people putting up a marquee and they all have different ideas about how to put it up, the likelihood is they will struggle working as a team and it will take ages to put up the marquee, or the marquee might get broken.

 

  1. Tipping it down

As you all probably know, us Brits are obsessed with the weather, if we are not sure what to talk about, we talk about the weather. If we are fed up about the weather, we talk about it. If we are pleased about the weather, we talk about it.

We are obsessed. Tipping it down, refers to rain, so when it is raining really heavily, you can say, it’s tipping it down.

 

  1. It’s raining cats and dogs

Another reference to the weather, if the rain is really bad or awfully heavy, you can say it’s raining cats and dogs.

  1. Pull yourself together

Come on, get up and deal with it, calm down you can do this! This means you should organise yourself, calm down and get control of your emotions and deal with the situation at hand. Pull yourself together, you can do this!

 

  1. Barking up the wrong tree

No, it’s not about dogs. You’re barking up the wrong tree if you think it’s about dogs! Barking up the wrong tree basically means you’re wrong. I suppose it’s just a nicer way of putting it, as we are known to be polite it England. So if someone has misunderstood what you’ve said or is wrong about something you can tell them that they’re barking up the wrong tree.

  1. Adding insult to injury

Adding insult to injury, means making something worse. Think of an injury, pretend you’ve insulted that injury and because of that it’s gotten worse… Does it help, no I didn’t think so… Never mind! In England this expression is used subtly, so if you are taking to a friend about someone else, maybe they are upset and you want to try to make them feel better, if your way of making them feel better will just make things worse for them your friend might say to you, ‘Don’t do that, you’ll only add insult to injury.’

 

  1. Call it a day

No need to phone anyone! Call it a day means, to stop or finish something. Imagine you’ve been working solidly on a piece of work all day and you are very tired, so your work is getting progressively worse because you’re tired. If this happens a friend might suggest that it’s time to call it a day, and carry on with your work tomorrow when you feel fresher.

 

  1. Under the weather

Another weather reference! But when you’re under the weather, you’re ill. Say you’re at work and you look quite pale and tired, someone might say that you look under the weather. It’s a more sublet and polite way of saying you look ill or unwell.

 

  1. We’ll cross at bridge when we come to it

Imagine you are really worried about something happening, but the likelihood of it happening is next to none (impossible), someone might say to you, ‘Don’t worry, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,’ this is quite nice, it shows the person cares about you!

 

  1. Speak of the devil

You’re sat chatting with your friends about your new boss. Your new boss walks past and one of your friends says: ‘Speak of the devil.’ Speak of the devil is used when you see a person you’ve been talking about. Beware, if you use it and they hear it, the person generally wants to know hats been said about them! Though it can be used more discreetly, when the person you’ve been talking about walks past but doesn’t enter the conversation.

 

In conclusion: the English don’t speak English, with a million different accents, dialects and forms of slang, English is certainly not easy to decipher!

Language Learning Basics, Tips

The Most Common Mistake People Make When Learning A Language

Many people start learning a language, however many people quickly lose their motivation after their enthusiastic start and

I myself have done this many times already. While I am fluent in 5 languages and are not new to the rodeo of language learning I still find myself making the same mistake when trying to learn a new one.

Learning a new language can feel like trying to climb a mountain, and it can be incredibly frustrating when you don’t know when the climb is going to end.

But how are you going to know you have reached the top when you haven’t actually defined your goal?

Most people start aimlessly repeating words on Duolingo and stop when they feel they are not making any progress anymore.

In order to achieve something you must first define what you want to achieve. Wanting to ‘learn’ a new language is an incredibly vague definition which means it’s hard to actually measure progress.

 

Define your goal

So, in order to start learning a language and actually continue you need to set a clear goal for yourself. 

Ask yourself why you are learning this language and what you would like to be able to do.

What is your ultimate goal in this language? Do you want to be able to actually speak this language or is reading/writing the goal?

Why it works

Researchers have found that people are able to withstand much higher degrees of pain when they know how long and how much they will have to endure.

The uncertainty of not knowing when your ‘suffering’ is going to end makes the experience much worse, and will make it more likely for you to quit.

Setting a long term goal will remind you of what the finish line is, while keeping short term goals makes it easier to know what to do from day to day, and will allow you to measure your progress and actually compare it to an end goal.

Knowing how many miles you have walked doesn’t tell you much unless you know how far the finish line is.

Determining your goal will suddenly put your efforts on a scale and will make it easier for you to make it to the finish line.

Examples

Having clear goals is one of the reasons why living abroad is often such an effective way to learn a new language.

People often think it is the exposure to the new language, but the truth is that you can live years in a foreign country without speaking the language.

Exposure alone won’t get you there.

However, living abroad suddenly gives people a more specific goal in their language learning: to be conversationally fluent.

That in combination with the exposure and the practice is what usually turns time abroad into a successful language learning experience.

 

Having a goal is one of the things that makes Duolingo so appealing as a language learning tool. It encourages you to spend at least 5 minutes every day trying to learn a new language.

However, Duolingo lacks an overall goal for language learning which is another reason why many people give up. The words they teach you seem impractical and while you might learn something new everyday it doesn’t feel like you are actually working towards a goal.

Besides that apart from the occasional written exercise it mostly focuses on the passive side of language learning, and fails to

So when you are learning a new language, try to set goals for yourself. Ask yourself why you are learning this language, and what you w

 

Long term goals

  • Three months from now I want to be able to read a book in French
  • One year from now I want to be able to have a 5 minute conversation with a native Mandarin speaker
  • Six months from now I want to be able to watch an English movie without subtitles
  • One year from now I want to be able to read a mystery thriller in Swedish
  • Six months from now I want to be able to have a chat with my in-laws in Portuguese
  • Four months from now I want to be able to ask for directions in Arabic when I am on vacation in Egypt
  • Two years from now I want to be mistaken for a native speaker of Swahili

 

One fun thing to do is to search a random text/video or to  purchase a book/movie in your target language and keep it somewhere for the amount of time you are giving yourself to learn this language.

Take a quick glance at it when you are starting out (potentially even write down how much of it you could understand so far) and put it away until you feel like you are ready.

 

When you have set a long term goal for yourself, try to break it up into smaller pieces with short time goals. This will make it easier to know what you have to do from day to day in order to achieve your long-term goals.

Short term goals are also a great way to be able to track your progress.

Here are some examples of short term goals you can set for yourself.

Short term goals

Time-based goals vs. Result-based goals

Setting time based goals such as on Duolingo can also be a great way to make sure you spend time on it every day. However your language learning efforts can not be measured in the amount of hours you put into it.

If you are learning in an ineffective way or keep repeating the same things you can work as long as you want but you won’t make much progress. Setting goals that are not time-based but result-based will force you to find out the most effective way of language learning