An experiment conducted by British and Dutch researchers has proven that low doses of alcohol help people to speak a foreign language more fluently. Even if the speaker doubts their linguistic skills have improved, they still have after a drink.
The authors point out that the dose of alcohol tested in the study was low, and that higher levels of consumption might not have these beneficial effects. After all, they write in their paper, drinking too much can have the exact opposite effect on fluency and can even lead to slurred speech.
Participants were randomized to consume either a low dose of alcohol or a control beverage that contained no alcohol before they chatted with an experimenter in Dutch for a few minutes. The exact dose of alcohol varied depending on participants’ body weight, but it was equivalent to just under a pint (460ml) of 5% beer, for a 70kg male. Their chats were then recorded and rated by native Dutch speakers.
Even though the alcohol had no effect on the speakers’ self-ratings; they did perform better. The native Dutch speakers rated people in the alcohol group as having better fluency, specifically, better pronunciation than those in the water group. Ratings for grammar, vocabulary, and argumentation were similar between groups.
According to 9Gag, the experiment was published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology and at least one other paper supports this theory. In a 1972 study, small doses of alcohol improved Americans’ pronunciation of words in Thai.
“Future research on this topic should include an alcohol placebo condition,” the authors write, “to disentangle the relative impact of pharmacological vs. expectancy effects.” While the study did not measure people’s mental states or emotions, the authors say it’s possible that a low-to-moderate dose 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,” they conclude.
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