Booze boosts foreign language skills – study

Booze boosts foreign language skills – study
A tipple or two could boost foreign language conversation skills, according to new research, which found improved pronunciation among individuals who had consumed a low dose of alcohol.

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Some 50 native German speakers who were studying Dutch at Maastricht University in the Netherlands were tested on their oral skills by researchers from the University of Liverpool, Maastricht University and King's College London.

Participants were randomly assigned either a low dose of alcohol or a non-alcoholic beverage before they chatted with an experimenter in Dutch for a few minutes.

The amount of alcohol served to each person varied according to their individual weight. A 70kg male, for example, received just under a pint of beer at 5 percent strength, a statement from the University of Liverpool confirmed.

Recordings of the conservations were made and each participant was rated by two native Dutch speakers who did not know if the individual had consumed alcohol or not. Participants also rated their own speech skills.

Researchers found that those who drank alcohol before they spoke with the experimenter had significantly better results – specifically, better pronunciation – compared to those who had not consumed alcohol.

Interestingly, however, alcohol intake had no effect on participants’ own perceived ratings of their performances.

"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,” researcher Dr Inge Kersbergen, from the University of Liverpool said.

The research backs up a previously untested popular belief that alcohol can improve a person’s ability to speak a foreign language.

"It is important to point out that participants in this study consumed a low dose of alcohol. Higher levels of alcohol consumption might not have beneficial effects on the pronunciation of a foreign language," Dr Fritz Renner, another researcher involved in the study said.

One suggestion for the positive results is that it could be down to a reduction in anxiety, the study said but admitted more research was necessary to test this theory. The study is published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.