Does drinking help foreign language learning?

beerFrom recent personal experience*, I can say that the answer is: sort of.  It’s not unsurprising that a few quiet drinks will lessen the fears of embarrassment, and also give the impression that you are speaking a lot better than you normally do (mistakes are skimmed over and might be forgotten in the morning). Drinking doesn’t make you any better in itself, but it may make practising easier, which will definitely help you out.

As long as you don’t drink until you’re incomprehensible in any language, alcohol can help smooth the way to more free-flowing speech, which can then lead to increased confidence in your own language abilities. You will find that people really don’t mind about pauses and mistakes, and effective communication is much more about trying it out rather than getting one or two sentences perfectly correct.

Of course, if you don’t want to or need to drink, it’s possible to get the same effect without the alcohol.  For some people it may take a big change in mindset, or a constant low-level of embarrassment, but it’s only ever going to be beneficial for you to practice as much as possible.  Don’t worry about what other people think, and just give it a go.

For another viewpoint and some ideas for finding confidence (and better health!) without liquid courage, Benny the Irish polyglot has written a great post about it at Fluent in 3 Months.

*It was my birthday recently, can you blame me?