So you've been learning a new language. Something charming. Something French. And you've been getting pretty good at it, or at least in your workbook. But when you try speaking to actual native-speaking French people, it goes horribly wrong. You start second-guessing yourself. You stop taking risks. "What's the French word for champagne?" you ask. And when everyone laughs, you run into the toilet to anger-cry for half an hour while hitting yourself in the temples. "If only I were drunk," you think. "I wouldn't have hesitated."
Well, it turns out you're right. Researchers have discovered that drinking a small amount of alcohol actually improves foreign language skills, and it's probably because people stop worrying.
The study was conducted by researchers from the University of Liverpool, Maastricht University, and King's College London. The participants were 50 native German speakers, all studying in Maastricht, and all trying to learn Dutch.
It started with each person getting a drink. Half of them received drinks containing alcohol, the other half received drinks containing none. The size of each drink was varied to cater for everyone's different body size, but in general a 70 kilogram male got slightly less that one pint of 5% beer. Then these marginally buzzed people were invited to speak Dutch. The Dutch conversations were audio-recorded and later played back to two native Dutch speakers, who graded each participant. And the results were exciting.
Researchers found that participants who drank actual alcohol performed "significantly better" than those who didn't. It was pronunciation that really seemed improve, but most areas received some sort of uptick. Interestingly though, alcohol seemed to make no difference in how participants rated their own abilities.
Dr Jessica Werthmann, who was one of the researchers in Maastricht, chalked the results up to "the anxiety-reducing effect of alcohol", but she was quick to warn further study was required.
Another Dutch researcher, Dr Fritz Renner, also warned that the results have limits. As he explained, "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."
But whatever. You do what's right for you.