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Drinking Alcohol Improves Fluency

Well, that’s not exactly right. But a new study shows that multilingual people are more confident and have more authentic accents when speaking languages other than their primary one. The study was mainly subjective, but the researchers who carried it out stand by their findings…

Italian Café Scene - © UnknownIf you are a spy in an old B&W movie, never speak in a non-native language at a ‘meet’.

The study, recently published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, asserts that subjects given a moderate amount of alcohol fared better on spontaneity and authenticity of accent in tests against other subjects who were given nothing to drink.

And that surprised the scientists, who assumed that anecdotal reports from multilingual speakers to that effect were nonsense.

What they did…

The researchers described their testing method thus:

Fifty native German speakers who had recently learned Dutch were randomized to receive either a low dose of alcohol or a control beverage that contained no alcohol. Following the experimental manipulation, participants took part in a standardized discussion in Dutch with a blinded experimenter. The discussion was audio-recorded and foreign language skills were subsequently rated by two native Dutch speakers who were blind to the experimental condition (observer-rating). Participants also rated their own individual Dutch language skills during the discussion (self-rating).

What they found…

Native Dutch speakers rated those subjects who had had a drink higher in  their Dutch language skills than those subjects who had not been given alcohol. Curiously, the alcohol factor had no effect on test subjects’ self-evaluations of their second-language skills.

What all this does NOT mean…

  • You will not necessarily appear more charming or commanding at parties speaking in a non-native language if you are drinking.
  • You will definitely not be more charming or commanding at parties speaking in your native language if you are drinking.
  • You should probably not drink before going into business meetings where you will be speaking any non-native language. Or any business meeting, for that matter.
  • If you must deliver a speech in a non-native language, first ask if someone else present is better equipped to do the job. If not, rehearse your speech carefully, to head off any horrendous bloopers or mispronunciations.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

~ Maggie J.