Want to Speak a Foreign Language Better? Have a Drink


[♪ INTRO] Greetings! I’m Anthony Brown, and I’ll be joining
Brit and Hank on this channel to talk about these wonderful, weird brains
of ours and how they work! And I couldn’t be more… psyched about
it. Now, onto the science. We all know that having a little bit to drink
can make you a little… loose lipped. Like, you’re having a few beers while watching
the Packers game with your buddies, and before you know it, you’re screaming TOM BRADY IS NO AARON RODGERS at the top of
your lungs. Whoops. Well, we all know that last statement is true. EVEN IF SOME PEOPLE DON’T WANT TO ACCEPT IT. And it turns out a bit of booze might actually
improve your language skills more generally; that is, if you’re speaking a foreign tongue. Drunk people aren’t exactly known for their
language skills, since, you know, slurring doesn’t count
as articulate speech. But, strangely enough, studies do suggest
that drinking might help you master the complexities of speaking that new language you’ve been
trying to pick up. For instance, take a study first published
online in 2017 in The Journal of Psychopharmacology, which looked at the language abilities of
50 students in the Netherlands. All of the participants natively spoke German,
but were trying to learn Dutch, and had to pass an exam showing they could
speak the language to get into their course. As part of the study, they were asked to rate
how good they thought their Dutch language skills were, and complete the Rosenburg Self Esteem Scale,
designed to measure, you guessed it, self esteem. Then, they either got a healthy glass of water,
or a vodka with bitter lemon; enough booze to give them a blood alcohol
concentration of around 0.04%. Once served, they had 10 minutes to finish
the drink. Then, 15 minutes later, when the alcohol had
started to make its way into their bloodstream, the
language test began. They were told to verbally argue for or against
animal testing, in Dutch, for two minutes. And it turned out that the group that drank
spoke Dutch better. Now I know what you’re thinking. But no, they didn’t just think they did
better because they were buzzed, like your friend “thinks” they’re so
much better at karaoke after 3 tequila shots. They rated their own language skills about
the same as when they weren’t drunk, and the self esteem scores weren’t significantly
different, either. It was actually other, native Dutch speakers
who said they spoke the language better, and in particular, those judges noted the
tipsy participants sounded more natively Dutch. And though there isn’t a ton of work on
this topic specifically, other research does seem to confirm this idea
that pronunciation of a foreign language improves with a little buzz, or, at least,
it doesn’t get worse, like pronunciation in your native tongue does. That might sound kind of ridiculous, but when
we think about some of the relaxing qualities of alcohol,
it kinda makes sense. You see, you went off about Aaron Rodgers
being better than Tom Brady after a few drinks, still no argument there, because booze acts
as a multi-purpose wet blanket in the brain. Specifically, it increases the effectiveness
of GABA, a neurotransmitter that generally quiets the chatter between neurons. That includes the neurons you need to activate
to stop yourself from saying something you’ll regret. But such signal dampening can also lessen
anxiety. For example, a 2008 study found that self-reported
ratings of intoxication negatively correlated with the activation of brain areas associated
with fear response, namely, the limbic system. Many language learners suffer from foreign
language anxiety, which is a feeling of tension or apprehension
associated with second language contexts. Basically, they think they’re terrible,
so they get discouraged and subsequently do worse. In severe cases, they might even shy away
from speaking the language entirely. And it seems like a bit of booze can dull
your fears about making mistakes, which might mean you make fewer of them. Or, there might be some other, as of yet unidentified
reason drinking helps you sound more natural. But that will take more research. Alcohol might be able to help you learn the
language, too. Of course, conventional wisdom would say drinking
isn’t great for learning for, well, a lot of reasons. But perhaps the biggest is its reputation
for impairing memory. I mean, there are whole Hollywood blockbusters with plots centered around binge drinking-induced
blackouts. And research has shown that even at lower
levels, alcohol can mess with memory storage. But that’s not the whole story. Some research suggests that a drink might
actually help you remember things; specifically, things you did before you started
to drink. A surprising study published in 2017 found
that people who drank to their hearts’ content after a memorizing task remembered more than
those who stayed sober. And that seemed to be because of alcohol’s
memory tampering abilities, or what psychologists refer to as a period
of ‘reduced memory encoding’. The basic gist is that because you remember
less when you’re wasted, your brain does an extra good job locking
in the stuff that happened before alcohol started interfering with your
memory. Which is basically an argument for following
your study sessions with a couple of well deserved beers. But, it’s important to note that even if
a little drinking can improve your pronunciation or even help you remember what was on those
flashcards, this is definitely not a case where more is
better. These studies all used pretty low doses of
alcohol. So, if you’re hoping to get a linguistic
boost, just a drink or two will do. Besides, you should always drink responsibly! Thanks for watching this episode of SciShow
Psych! And thanks for joining me on my first episode! This channel wouldn’t exist without the
support of our SciShow Patrons. If you wanna support the show, go to Patreon.com/SciShow,
so I really mean it when I say we wouldn’t be making episodes
like this without your support. [♪ OUTRO]

100 thoughts on “Want to Speak a Foreign Language Better? Have a Drink”

  1. It's dangerous to recommend drinking more for any benefits. It makes more sense to shift drinks from one period to another, to the extent one wants to take advantage of the benefits in these studies. Such a small amount is required that most people would definitely drink more than that, and alcohol's negative effects have no floors, according to studies not tainted by industry funding. In other words, the costs after outweigh the benefits.

  2. ANTHONY!!!!! That was great man! You are a very welcome member of the SciShow Squad. Keep up the great work, it only gets easier from here, it will start to feel much more natural quickly 👍

  3. Welcome to Sci Show ! ……..Tom Brady is no Aaron Rogers, it is true. He's one of the greats ! Aaron could never fill his shoes. (So stfu. just kidding, no I'm not. )

  4. At almost 23 years old, I've not yet knowingly ingested ethanol, because there hasn't been a good enough incentive to start. If what you're saying is true, that changes things.

  5. I would LOVE to see a show on a treasure hunting phenomenon that messes with the mind of otherwise sane people…there is an article describing its occurrence in a hunt in England from years ago… “‘This Goes All the Way to the Queen’: The Puzzle Book that Drove England to Madness”. It has now also occurred in the forrest fenn treasure hunt but has not been as well analyzed. There are blogs and you tube videos full of the phenomenon in the fenn treasure hunt. It is soooooo fascinating! Please please please do a show on this or similar? 🙂

  6. The only reason different languages exist is because social circles of people that are drunk, soundboarding slurs off each other until the variations stick.

  7. I didn't think much about Anthony, maybe he'd be good, maybe he'd be decent, maybe he'd be a bad choice, I didn't know, just hoped he felt alright there.
    My first thought was "he could speak a bit faster" – which he'll maybe get after a while on the show, gets experience and speed, which would be nice but I also thought that that would be unnecessary (the speed I mean).
    "Maybe some music in the background would be nice" – maybe you can't play it, also you never play it in your videos so I don't know why it'd all of a sudden be better with it.
    As the video went on, I focused more on the story, not the speaker, and how alcohol affects the human brain. The studies are odd and the results are interesting.
    At the end of the video, I'd say Anthony did a really good job. Thought "well he had his little things so maybe I'd give him a 4 out of 5" but then "wait, who cares, people are different, also he's new, stop being picky, 5/5".
    (I really wanted to put a 5/7)

    So Anthony, my message to you is – enjoy your time with SciShow, I've been here for a while, watching quite a bit of videos, some old, some new and they are always interesting or even fascinating. Do what you love and love what you do.

  8. Sci show may be made in merika, but can you least take into account that you are seen by people from all over the world, thus your packers game shite etc is just Stupid, can you please get out of the USA, USA, USA mentality, it is really cringe worthy.

  9. I’m taking Russian. I think vodka is an inherent component of the phonology alone and the grammar is only intelligible to the inebriated mind.

  10. Interesting video. As someone who enjoys learning new languages, this is something to keep in mind.

    Welcome, Anthony! Looking forward to seeing you more in the future!

  11. Hello Anthony! That's a great name you have lol! I think you'll fit in just fine with the psych community and I look forward to seeing more of your episodes!

  12. To achieve perfect english pronunciation, you need to stuff your mouth with dumplings.
    Proof: https://youtu.be/FrFMBIOZm-g

  13. Maybe it's because Dutch is so similar to German. I'd be interested to see the effect on German natives trying to speak Arabic or Chinese or another language in no way associated their native tongue.

  14. As a native english speaker trying to speak portuguese, I can agree with this video. It helped me loosen up and not really care how I sounded, which allowed the native Portuguese speakers to understand me and even say my Portuguese is good.

  15. I always noticed this within myself with my spanish! Always thought I probably just got more confident. So cool that science validated this! Just goes to show, there's probably a lot more things we have instincts about ourselves that might seem unscientific, but actually later be verified as true.

  16. I've used this system with my French in-laws for a while. If you keep drinking, everyone eventually sounds the same.

  17. Me after one bottle of pure vodka talking native language: "kff fkfkf fkfjhgkæ"
    Russian teacher: "Wow you just got yourself an A+ in Russian"

  18. Glad to hear Anthony helm this episode. Though the pacing needs a bit of work, at some points the slow-to-moderate reading actually helped me listen better to the show, what with the enunciation also being pretty clear

    Looking forward to you hosting more episodes, man!

  19. I think the research the conclude something bogos like this sounds a bit far fetched there must be some variables they didn’t account

  20. Wow. Something changes on a channel and the YouTube comments are… Positive. That is very refreshing, what a great community.

  21. Hey i like this guy! He is pretty cool and reminds of of the black guy from star track with the cool glasses. I dont know how to spell his name sorry. Great job on a great video my friend lol!

  22. i heared there are 2 typs of dutch one amrican and one from somewere i dont know. an explanation would be nice.
    p.s. exscuse me for the bad riting i´m out of practis

  23. I like this new guy! Welcome to the show, Anthony. Your narration is funny and you deliver well. You're also charismatic and I actually feel like I'm having a conversation with you, since you speak so naturally.

    Maybe try to speak a bit faster, since at some points it feels you speak a bit too slow.

    Other than that, I loved your take on this video, keep up the good work!

  24. You need also to have an appropriate drink, related to the language you are trying to speak. For French, I suggest Bordeaux or Champagne. For Dutch, Beer must be the right choice.

  25. I'll get used to it and listen better, but right now I can't stop objectifying them lips 😀 I'll get over it. two more videos… I hope

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