Drinking a little alcohol can improve your language skills
It has been part of popular culture for a long time the consumption of alcoholic beverages can help us to better master the languages that are not our mother tongue. In fact, there are cases in which this belief has reached the extreme, and proof of this is that on Facebook there is a page with more than 100,000 followers called "Going drunk increases my ability to speak other languages."
It is already known that many of those beliefs that happen from mouth to ear have more of myth than of reality, and in particular, the idea that intoxicating us with spirits can make us speak better languages is more of a joke than really (in that state costs us even to pronounce some surnames, let's not say and use grammar rules with which we are not very familiar).
However ... what happens when the consumption of alcohol is moderate? Could this have a positive effect on our language proficiency that we do not speak at the native level ? A recent study suggests that the answer is yes.
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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 moves the industry that commercializes this type of products has not made pass unnoticed the way in which these substances harm us in multiple ways, although certain alcoholic products are better publicized than others.
For example, the brains of people with a history of alcoholism tend to be somewhat less bulky and the neuronal interconnections of some of its areas are less numerous than in healthy brains; This is noted, among other things, in their ability to make use of memory, since they have a damaged hippocampus, and in their management of emotions and impulses in real time.
However, beyond the direct effects that the alcohol ingested in high quantities has on the nervous system, it is not unreasonable that in moderate amounts there are certain advantages related to this class of products. Specifically, a team of scientists from the University of Maastricht headed by Fritz Renner set out to check whether drinking a little alcohol temporarily improves the mode in which a newly learned language is spoken (in adults, of course).
This research, rather than discovering an advantage associated with alcohol consumption, serves to better understand the mechanisms involved in the use of a foreign language.
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The effect of alcohol when speaking foreign languages
To carry out this research, Renner and his colleagues used an experimental study with 50 volunteers whose mother tongue is German. These people were German students who were in their second year of Psychology at the University of Maastrich, a city where many people from the German country come because of their proximity to the border that separates both territories.
In addition, in order to pass from Germany to the University of Maastricht, you have to stop first for a Dutch level test , so that practically all these students had a level of this language that allowed them to speak it.
To begin with the experimental conditions, the volunteers were divided into two groups: one of them drank 250 ml. of sparkling water, and the other drank the same amount of lemonade with little vodka , enough to reach a blood alcohol concentration of 0.04% (the amount of ml of alcohol each person drank depended on their sex and body mass so that everyone presented that 0.04%).
A quarter of an hour after having consumed the drinks, in a phase of the experiment in which the alcohol should have already passed into the blood and brain, the volunteers were asked to debate in Dutch about the animal experimentation during a couple of minutes. From this exercise, two native Dutch speakers had to rate the degree to which the Germans expressed themselves well or badly, offering scores on different parameters: fluency, pronunciation, vocabulary, choice of words, clarity and overall speech quality . In addition, the Germans should rate themselves in terms of how well or badly they had spoken Dutch.
The surprising result
What Renner and his colleagues hoped was that alcohol would make the Germans benevolent when it came to scoring the quality of their Dutch in the test, while the Dutch would not award a higher score, but less, to those who had consumed the vodka . That is, they believed that the main effect of the spirit drink would be to affect the way in which a person appreciates the quality of their own command of the foreign language.
However, the results obtained offered a very different conclusion. The Germans who had consumed vodka they did not have to rate themselves better than those who had drunk soda , but in general terms they did receive significantly higher scores on the part of the Dutch, both in terms of overall speech quality and pronunciation.
Why does this happen? The 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 barely noticeable and that, on the other hand, other psychological consequences emerge that, although they are also discrete, are positive. . The advantages of a slight disinhibition can be an example .
And it is that when it comes to expressing ourselves in a foreign language, the fear of making a fool of ourselves when pronouncing certain words can cause a self-fulfilling prophecy effect, that is, lead us to pronounce things in a vague or imprecise way so that we are hardly I listened. A few drops of vodka could make these fears practically disappear, leaving us free to express ourselves in an intuitive and genuine way.