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.