While I am not an expert in any language besides English (and some might question if I'm actually an expert in that), I've always been a big believer in the value of being able to speak foreign languages. The seven-or-so years of French and Spanish classes I took in middle and high school growing up (plus a year of Latvian in college) have served me very well over the years, and I have tried my best to learn at least a handful of words -- Yes, No, Thank you, Where's the bathroom? -- in every country I visit.
But even more important than being better able to navigate a foreign country, science has found that learning a foreign language has many other benefits, including making you smarter, building multitasking and decision-making skills, warding off Alzheimer's, improving memory, and more.
So, what's the best way to learn a new language?
According to a recent report in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, researchers gathered 50 native German speakers who had recently learned to speak Dutch, and the test subjects were split into two groups. One of the groups was given a low dose of alcohol (equivalent to a bit under a pint of 5 percent beer for a 154-pound male) and the other group received a beverage with no alcohol. Participants then engaged in a standardized discussion in Dutch with an experimenter, with the discussion recorded and then rated for language skills by two native Dutch speakers.
The result? According to the researchers,
"Participants who consumed alcohol had significantly better observer-ratings for their Dutch language, specifically better pronunciation, compared with those who did not consume alcohol. However, alcohol had no effect on self-ratings of Dutch language skills."
While some might be tempted to conclude that more alcohol would be even better, one of the study's researchers, Dr. Fritz Renner of Maastricht University warns against making that leap in logic. Says Dr. Renner,
"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."
Or anything else, I suspect.
Regardless, if you're trying to learn a new language, it appears that a little bit of alcohol can go a long way to help.