Here’s a convenient scientific excuse: a new study suggests that drinking one pint of beer may enhance the enunciation skills of bilingual speakers. Even as further research is still needed, the anxiety-reducing effects of alcohol may already play an important role in this assumption.
Since our early beginnings, we suspected there was something about alcohol that made us talkative. Back in fourth century BC, Plato would praise in Attic Greek language the benefits of moderate drinking, while engaging in day-long talks with Socrates and Aristotle.
Now that we don’t have discussions at the Agora like the old Greeks — easier to just post a Facebook rant— a new scientific study has come to prove the trickiest philosophical question every bilingual speaker asks themselves when swilling beers: “Am I speaking like a native, or I am actually too drunk to discern between English and Spanish?”
There are two contradictory premises to explain this mysterious phenomenon. Researchers suggest that while booze impairs cognitive functions, such as the ability to concentrate and remember words, one drink can help us gain confidence and tackle social anxiety at the same time.
Should The Glass Be Half-Full or Half-Empty?
The new findings, published October 18 in the Journal Psychopharmacology, confirm drinking almost one pint (460 ml) of 5% beer helps bilingual speakers communicate better in a foreign language.
To test the implications of acute alcohol consumption on foreign language abilities, researchers enrolled 50 Germans into a randomized controlled trial. All of them had recently learned Dutch and were attending Maastricht University in the Netherlands.
Scientists divided participants into two groups: one was required to consume a pint of beer, while the other was given non-alcoholic beverages. Afterward, they all chatted with a Dutch experimenter while their conversations were audio recorded. The dialogues were later presented to a couple of native Dutch speakers who didn’t know that some of the German study subjects had been drunk at the time of the recording.
And here comes the good part: those Germans who had drunk one beer before chatting in Dutch had “significantly better observer-ratings” for their foreign language speaking abilities, the study concluded.
Even when the investigation has confirmed that drinking may help us communicate better in a different language, it might not be a great idea to spend a night at the bar thinking it will help you get an A+ on your French exam.
Dr. Fritz Renner, a researcher at Maastricht University and co-author of the study, remarked that participants in the investigation consumed no more than one pint and the study results should be cautiously evaluated.
“Higher levels of alcohol consumption might not have beneficial effects on the pronunciation of a foreign language,” added Dr. Fritz Renner.
Drinking one birra after another might be counterproductive, but if you really want to use local slang —like boludo— when hanging out with your Argentine friends, without offending someone in the effort, the secret might be buried deep into a fernet glass. But just one!