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Drinking could help you master the complexities of speaking a new language, and might actually help you memorize your flashcards!

Hosted by: Anthony Brown
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[♪ 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, so I really mean it when I say we wouldn't be making episodes like this without your support. [♪ OUTRO].