Learning a language can be very intimidating, with some choosing to use some alcohol, or liquid courage, to learn a language. Alcohol may make you more relaxed, but does it really help you learn a language? Well, I believe that alcohol can help and hinder your progress at the same time. For example, you’d never want to rely on beer to help you speak your target language. Instead, you should embrace the learning curve and develop courage through fun practice methods. Alcohol can assist you by meeting native speakers. Many language exchanges, or inter-cambios in Spanish, occur at bars where alcohol is served. Let’s learn more about alcohol’s impact on languages below!
Positive Impact of Alcohol
As mentioned countless times, the best way to become proficient is a language is through conversation. Grammar classes and expensive software might help, but conversation and relationships play a bigger role. Alcohol enables you to be more social, and meet more people. For some, starting a conversation with a complete stranger, even in their native language, is quite daunting. However, this task becomes more achievable after a pint or two.
Per a 1970’s scientific study, University students who were Native English Speakers were asked to conduct a Thai pronunciation test after drinking different amounts of alcohol. These subjects had no experience in the language, some drank an alcohol-free placebo. The results confirmed that those that drank 1.5 ounces of alcohol performed better on the test, than the student who drank the placebo. However, students that drank 3 ounces suffered the worst performance. Thus, alcohol can help language learning, but only in moderation.
Alcohol’s impact on languages also indirectly effects different cultures. For example, some countries like Germany are world renown for their Bavarian beers. On the other hand, Islamic countries with sharia law, severely restrict alcohol availability. Alcohol can positively impact your language learning goals by teaching you about culture. For example, I went to Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany and it taught me many German words and customs. I learned German Phrases like Prost, or cheers along with different types of beer and common phrases like please (Bitte). Thus, I was able to pick up some German words in a fun manner.
I also learned about the history of German Beer, especially the purity laws. Unlike cheap, massed produced beers (ahem, Bud Light), Bavarian Beers must only contain the finest Barley, Hops and Water. This simple law, known as Reinheitsgebot, ensured quality and that brewers would never cut corners by using corn syrup, rice and other cheap ingredients.
Negative Impact of Alcohol
While alcohol can lower inhibitions and teach you about new cultures, it has many drawbacks. Alcohol can be addictive, cause memory loss, start fights, and destroy relationships. Unfortunately, alcoholism is very common with more than 3 million cases per year. Alcohol can be deadly if used with prescription meds and while driving. Luckily, these negative side effects can be avoided through moderation, careful use of drugs and NEVER drive under the influence.
As it comes to language learning, Alcohol’s biggest drawback is dependence. Some people have addictive personalities and will drink each time they attempt to speak their target language. Even if people drink as little as one shot, this simple action will promote dependence on a substance. Instead, using humor and learning through trial and error should be embraced, not avoided. Per Professor Brene Brown, “There is no innovation and creativity without failure.” This should be taken to heart as language learning requires creativity and changing your accent, grammar and phrases to excel.
Also, while 2 ounces of alcohol might not seem like much, it can quickly add up. As your body acclimates to alcohol, you’ll develop a tolerance and need to drink more to achieve the same buzz. This is the reason why alcoholics don’t feel drunk after large amounts of alcohol.
Alcohol’s impact on languages is both bad and good. Alcohol can help and hinder your language learning process simultaneously. Alcohol can help you meet new people, learn new words, cultures and lower your inhibitions which aids your journey. However, Alcohol, especially in excess can cause impaired judgement, motor skills, strained relationship and even death. Also, it can create dependence, raise your tolerance and make you think you “need” it to speak the language.