It’s been part of popular culture for a long time drinking alcoholic beverages can help us master languages better which are not our mother tongue. In fact, there are cases where this belief has gone to extremes, and the proof is that on Facebook, there is a page with over 100,000 followers called “Getting Drunk increases my ability to talk about others.” languages ”.
It is well known that many of these word of mouth beliefs have more myth than reality, and in particular, the idea that getting drunk with spirits can make us speak better languages is more of a joke than a truth. (in this state we even have difficulty pronouncing certain surnames, let alone using grammatical rules with which we are not very familiar).
However … what happens when alcohol consumption is moderate? This could have a positive impact on our fluency in languages that we do not speak natively? A recent study points out that the answer is yes.
Alcohol: neuronal and psychological effects
That alcohol has negative effects on the brain is something that has been known for a long time. The amount of money that drives the industry that markets this type of product has not gone unnoticed how much these substances harm us in many ways, even though some alcohol products are better advertised than others.
For example, the brains of people with a history of alcoholism tend to be a little smaller and the neural interconnections of some of its areas are less numerous than in healthy brains; this can be seen, among other things, in their ability to use memory, as they have a damaged hippocampus, and in their handling of emotions and impulses in real time.
However, beyond the direct effects of alcohol ingested in large amounts on the nervous system, it is not unreasonable that in moderate amounts there are certain advantages associated with this class of products. Specifically, a team of scientists from Maastricht University led by Fritz Renner set out to test whether drinking a little alcohol temporarily improves how a recently learned language is spoken (In adults, of course).
This research, rather than discovering a benefit related to alcohol consumption, serves to better understand the mechanisms involved in the use of a foreign language.
The effect of alcohol on speaking foreign languages
To conduct this research, Renner and his colleagues used an experimental-type study with 50 volunteers whose mother tongue is German. These people were German students in their second year of psychology at the University of Maastricht, a city frequented by many people from Germanic countries given their proximity to the border between the two territories.
In addition, in order to move from Germany to Maastricht University, you must first stop for a Dutch level testSo virtually all of these students had a level of that language that allowed them to speak it.
To start with the experimental conditions, the volunteers were divided into two groups: one of them drank 250 ml. sparkling water, and the other drank the same amount of lemonade with a little vodka, Enough to achieve a blood alcohol level of 0.04% (the amount of ml. Of alcohol that each person drank depended on their gender and body mass for each to have this 0.04%).
A quarter of an hour after consuming the drinks, at a stage of the experiment where alcohol should have already passed into the blood and brain, volunteers were invited to discuss animal experiments in Dutch for a few minutes. . From this exercise, two native Dutch speakers had to note the extent to which Germans expressed themselves well or poorly, offering scores on different parameters: fluency, pronunciation, vocabulary, word choice, clarity and general quality of speech. In addition, the Germans had to rate themselves according to their level of knowledge of Dutch.
The amazing result
What Renner and his colleagues hoped was that alcohol would make the Germans benevolent by noting the quality of their Dutch in the test, while the Dutch would not give a higher score, but a lower score. In other words, they believed that the main effect of the spirit drink would be to affect the way a person appreciates the quality of his own mastery of the foreign language.
However, the results obtained offered a very different conclusion. The Germans who had consumed vodka they didn’t have to brand themselves better than those who drank soda, But in general terms, if they obtained significantly higher scores by the Dutch, both in terms of overall quality of speech and pronunciation.
Why is this happening? disinhibition
Although the effects of alcohol on the nervous system are negative, it is reasonable that in very moderate amounts the harmful repercussions of this substance are hardly noticeable and that, on the contrary, other psychological consequences emerge that, although ‘they are also discreet, they are of a positive character. The benefits of mild disinhibition can be an example.
And it is that when one speaks in a foreign language the fear of being ridiculous while pronouncing certain words can cause an effect of self-fulfilling prophecy, that is to say, cause us to pronounce the things of a cumbersome or imprecise so that we are barely heard. A few drops of vodka could practically allay those fears, leaving us free to express ourselves intuitively and authentically.