It was 24 hours before our week vacation off of school, and we had absolutely no plans. So, my roommates and I decided to book a ticket to Nice, France for the following day. No plans, just a one-night hostel reservation. We made it to the South of France, and all I worried about was “will I be able to communicate with the locals?” It had been one full year since I had spoken French. One night, we went to a bar and met three French boys who only spoke French, and my two friends only spoke English. The pressure was on, and I had to be the translator. Does alcohol help you speak your second language?
A Dutch study tested 50 native-German speakers who are taking Dutch classes (Renner et al., 2017). Half of the students were given water and half the students were given alcohol, and participated in a two-minute Dutch interview. The participants felt that there was no difference in their speech, although native Dutch speakers rated their fluency and found a difference in their speech — where individuals who consumed alcohol were more fluent in their second language, when compared to the water-drinking individuals. It’s called liquid confidence for a reason.
I felt that when I was at the bar, I felt more relaxed to speak French as opposed to an interview situation where there was more pressure. Another fact to note is that since I was the only bilingual person at the table, I felt that if I didn’t know how to translate a phrase…I could make it up (#sorrynotsorry). The authors of the study do note that the amount of alcohol given to their participants was a low-dosage, as a higher-dosage of alcohol may often result in slurred speech. The alcohol breaks the inhibition and anxiety associated to speaking a second language. Let’s poor a glass. Salut!
Renner, Fritz. Kersberg, Inge. Field, Matt. Werthmann, Jessica. “Dutch Courage? Effects of Acute Alcohol Consumption on Self-Ratings and Observer Ratings of Foreign Language Skills.” Dutch Courage? Effects of Acute Alcohol Consumption on Self-Ratings and Observer Ratings of Foreign Language SkillsJournal of Psychopharmacology, 2017, Journal of Psychopharmacology, 18 Oct. 2018, journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0269881117735687.