Drinking alcohol could lead to a significant decrease in our executive and motor functions.
Another interesting fact is that there is a link between alcohol consumption and speaking a language. It turns out that we use our executive functions ( the cognitive skills that include basic cognitive processes such as attentional control, cognitive inhibition, inhibitory control, working memory, and cognitive flexibility) when we talk.
And especially when we communicate in a foreign language.
So, if we drink alcohol the functions we use when speaking a second language will be reduced. And therefore it will be more difficult for us to express ourselves in that language. Yet, this is not always the case.
Consuming alcohol usually boosts self-confidence and decreases the fear of social interaction.
And these side effects could, in fact, improve our language speaking skills. That idea is also confirmed by new research announced in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.
It was carried out by scientists from the Maastricht University, University of Liverpool, and King’s College London.
The researchers examined how well 50 native German speakers who were studying at a Dutch University (Maastricht) could speak Dutch after having consumed a low dose of alcohol. The participants have just recently started using Dutch for speaking, reading, and writing. They were assessed by experimenters and also had to personally evaluate their own language skills.
The participants were divided into groups. They had to consume either a low dose of alcohol or a beverage that had no alcohol.
The dose of alcohol was determined according to the participant’s weight. But it was approximately 460ml of 5% beer, for a male who weighs 70kg.
Then they talked to an experimenter in Dutch for several minutes. The talk was audio-recorded and the German students’ language skills were evaluated by two native Dutch speakers. The evaluators did not have an idea if the participant had drunk alcohol or not. Participants also evaluated their own Dutch language skills.
The fact they’d drunk alcohol didn’t seem to have any effect on the students’ self-evaluations. But the participants who had used alcohol received more positive assessments from their language evaluators. The latter reported that these participants had better pronunciation than the others.
Here are the opinions of the members of the scientific team that conducted the research:
Dr. Fritz Renner said:
“It is important to point out that participants in this study consumed a low dose of alcohol. Higher levels of alcohol consumption might not have beneficial effects on the pronunciation of a foreign language.”
Dr. Inge Kersbergen, who works at the University of Liverpool’s Institute of Psychology, Health, and Society, added:
“Our study shows that acute alcohol consumption may have beneficial effects on the pronunciation of a foreign language in people who recently learned that language. This provides some support for the lay belief (among bilingual speakers) that a low dose of alcohol can improve their ability to speak a second language”
Finally, Dr. Jessica Werthmann who works at Maastricht University concluded that:
“We need to be cautious about the implications of these results until we know more about what causes the observed results. One possible mechanism could be the anxiety-reducing effect of alcohol. But more research is needed to test this.”