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Moderate alcohol consumption improves foreign language skills

10 November 2017

Alcohol is not exactly known for its brain-boosting properties. In fact, it impairs all kinds of cognitive functioning, including working memory and the ability to ignore distractions. So it really should make it harder for someone to speak in a foreign language.

However, as Fritz Renner of Maastricht University in the Netherlands, and colleagues, point out in a new paper in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, “contrary to what would be expected based on theory, it is a widely held belief among bilingual speakers that alcohol consumption improves foreign language fluency, as is evident in anecdotal evidence from numerous discussions in social and popular media.” And in welcome news for holiday drinkers (not to mention language students) everywhere, it turns out that, at least at moderate levels, this belief seems to be right.

To test the effect of alcohol on foreign language skills, Renner and his fellow researchers recruited 50 German students in their second year of an undergraduate degree in psychology at Maastricht University in the Netherlands. Maastricht is close to the German border and the university attracts many German students, all of whom must pass a Dutch language exam before they can attend.

Read more on our Research Digest blog.

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