"I'm standing there pissing and America's most famous gay guy is standing next to me telling me what I'm doing wrong," Christopher Ryan PhD said of the impromptu lesson he received from Dan Savage.
Entries in drinking (13)
One lovely evening a ways back, U. Michigan students were served cocktails, then tested on their ability to learn Thai pronunciation. The tests were performed double-blind, and the cocktails contained varying amounts of alcohol (some, secretely, had none). Finally, science was poised to say how much exactly you should drink before attempting to pronounce new foreign words.
The answer: a single shot (an American shot = 1.5 ounces/44 mL of 45% alcoholic liquor). Those who drank cocktails containing 1.5 ounces of mixed cognac and rum outperformed those drinking one, two or three ounces of the same, as well as those who had been unwittingly served alcohol-flavored virgin cocktails. Also of note: Those who drank on a completely empty stomach showed no improvement with alcohol whatsoever; the best performers drank on a mostly empty stomach — they had eaten only a candy bar.
“To learn a second language is to take on a new identity,” the research team (Alexander Guiora et al.) reported in the writeup of their 1972 experiment. They theorized that to break into a new language you must break out of your old identity — no easy task. Dismantling the barriers to foreign pronunciation is especially hard; our first-language backgrounds serve to set limits on the range of noises our mouths might otherwise make. Alcohol, then, improves the “degree of permeability of language ego boundaries”, i.e., it allows us to get silly, and make new, silly-seeming sounds.
The obvious conclusion is that a shot should be administered on a mostly empty stomach (or two, I'd guess, after a full meal) to everyone is about to attempt to pronounce a foreign language — assuming, of course, that they can drink responsibly. Likewise for pronunciation lessons in langauge courses, but, more than 40 years after the discovery of this amazing technique, universities and language schools continue to drag their feet on implementation. This, in spite of the growing evidence of the other health benefits of a drink or two per day.
Scientists have also been rather lax about delving into the implications of this study in the decades since it came out. After quite a bit of searching, I haven't been able to turn up any other attempts to replicate or expand research on language learning and alcohol (though two studies have shown lesser pronunciation improvement with valium and hypnosis). Google Scholar shows 171 citations of the 1972 study however; these papers often say that the alcohol study raises an “interesting” point that, as one put it, “obviously has no practical implications for language teaching” [emphasis added].
That's OK, though. I expect those Tipsy Pilgrim readers who are university language department heads will now snap to attention and get this fixed. After all, rarely in studies of foreign language acquisition does a teaching method prove such an unequivocal success. And it's such an easy one to implement!
Anyhow, for those you who don't oversee institutional language learning but who do enjoy speaking to foreigners, this — let's call it The Single Shot Method — should also prove useful. And, if coupled with the official Tipsy Pilgrim Language Method, you'll be unstoppable.
- The students were also given a test overall mental functioning, which showed, unsurprisingly, that alcohol in any amount doesn’t help in tests of problem-solving or memory. So it's doubtful that alcohol would be of use in grammar lessons, for example.
- As several less-scientifically-minded writers have pointed out, teetotelers might be able to get similar results by affecting a faux-drunken attitude in their language practice. So, while this is as yet unproven, completely sober language learning may be acceptable for certain more-liberated folks.
- It would be interesting to have had an additional control of students who did not drink at all, and who knew that they were not drinking. In the study, even the zero-alcohol control group was served cocktails designed to make them believe that they were getting tiddly, and since so many people drink just for the excuse to let themselves be ridiculous, I would suspect that fake-cocktail drinkers would have still wildly outperformed conscious abstainers. Unfortunately, this question remains unanswered.
I'll leave you with this dramatization of the difficulty in attempting to permeate language ego boundaries. Have you employed the Single Shot Method improve your language performance? What were your results? Please let me know in the comments.
TP is visiting Barcelona this week and just discovered the carajillo, Spain's espresso/alcholic shot mix. Oh, carajillo, where have you been all of my life?
As with anything worth putting in your mouth, the carajillo is storied. The word supposedly derives from coraje ("courage") and the tale goes that Spanish sailors in Cuba drank this rum mixed with coffee for bravery. Or carajillo might also come from carajo, which can refer to a dick but is more usually used as a vulgar intensifier.
Here's the official Tipsy Pilgrim recipe:
Pour a shot (cognac, brandy, whiskey, rum)
Add a shot of espresso
Add sugar, if you must
You'll recall that in Catalonia, the women are hot, the sailors are drunk, and the grandparents get started on their vermut before noon. I assume, darlings, that you have absorbed this blog's wisdom quite nearly become Catalans.
But how, you ask, scratching your mulleted heads, nervously twisting your pantalons cagats, should we get drunk in this lovely land? Or, more precisely, on what?
So here it is, your ....
Guide to What to Drink and How to Order in Catalunya
Vi negre — Literally “black wine”, these are often quite powerful reds; famous among them are the officially designated regions (D.O. or Denominació d’Origen) of Priorat and neighboring Montsant. At old-style wine shops in Catalonia you can still bring your own jug or plastic water bottle and fill it with ultra-cheap wine from a barrel.
Vi blanc — Many white wines are dry; one region to look for is Alella.
Cava — Sparkling wine (a.k.a. champagne); nearly all sparkling wine from the Iberian peninsula comes from the Catalan region of Penedès. Catalonia is the world’s second largest producer of sparkling wine after the French region of Champagne.
Aigua de València — “Valencian water” is a cocktail that combines cava, orange juice, vodka and ginger in varying ratios. It was invented by the painter Constante Gil and reached its heyday in the Valencian nightlife in the 1970s. Today, his signature drink remains more famous than his art.
Birra — Just order “una canya” to get a draft beer; you will most likely be served Estrella or a similar light concoction from Barcelona’s Damm brewery. Catalan microbrews include Keks from Girona, Catalonia’s first buckwheat beer; and the microbrewery Cerversera del Montseny, whose beers Lupulus Iberian Ale, Malta Pale Ale, and Negra Stout are the only Catalan microbrews available in the States.
Aiguardent — A “firewater” distilled from leftovers from winemaking.
Ratafia — An herbal digestif; some families in the Catalan countryside have their own secret recipes passed down through generations.
Vermut — Vermouth.
Estomacal Bonet — Officially sold as “El Gran Liquor Bonet”, this is an artisanal herbal brandy of great traditional stature in Catalonia.
Les Herbes Eivissenques — An anise liquor from Ibiza infused with and distilled from a wide variety of herbs.
Orxata de xufes — A cold, refreshing, nonalcoholic beverage from Valencia, made from the extract of nutritious tubers known as xufes (sometimes called tigernuts in English, or chufas as in Spanish), sugar and water. It is best consumed in the summer at specialist orxaterias, which also offer sweet pastries. Orxata made from xufes that meet government quality requirements is labeled Denominació d’Origen by the Valencian government.
Aromes de Montserrat — Traditional liquor made by the monks at the tourist hotspot monastery high above Barcelona.
Cremat — Literally, “burned”. This is a flaming brandy-rum caffeinated cocktail.
Beguda del pobre — From the region of Lleida, this “drink of the poor” is made from oranges, anise, and sugar.
Absenta — Catalonia is one of the world’s hotspots for absinthe consumption and production.
Crema catalana — When referring to desert, “Catalan cream” is the same as what the French call a crème brûlée. When referring to drinks, however, crema catalana means a cream liquor. A popular brand is Crema Catalana Melody.
Feel I'm missing anything important? Leave a note in the comments!
Photo: A bottle of ratafia. Credit: Yeza.
If you've read my previous posts, you presumably now have a hot Catalan girlfriend and have mastered drinking wine from your porró, the squirty Catalan wine pitcher. The obvious next step is to dance with your Catalan gal while drinking from your porró.
Fortunately, drunken Catalan dancing has a storied past; and I found a literally crumbling old book with the evidence: El Diccionari de la Dansa, dels Entremesos, i dels Instruments de Música i Sonadors (The Dictionary of Dance, Short-Form Entertainments and Musical Instruments). That's right, y'all, Tipsy Pilgrim spent a day in the library.
Of the hundreds of Catalan dances in this 1936 ethnographic pan-Catalonia study, there were at least three folk dances that called for heavy wine drinking while dancing. To perform each of them, you should drink from — but attempt to not break — a fragile porró.
Ball del Porró
The Porró Dance
Place a porró full of wine on the head of the gentleman and a coca (small, pizza-like flatbread typical of Catalonia) on the head of the lady. The two of you dance together, slowly “marking out a soft and relaxed step”, until you reach the other end of the plaza, at which point you eat the coca and drink the wine. The gentleman should then dismiss his gal, pick up another, and again make his way across the plaza with more wine and another coca. This must not stop until the gentleman’s porró falls and breaks.
This dance is performed in taverns and inns by men only. Place porrós on your heads, and sing about nightingales building a nest. Unfortunately, the details of the steps have been lost to the ages.
Another dance for men only. A flabiol (one-handed Catalan flute) is played as the men dance in a circle; when it stops, the dance’s leader of the moment must grab the porró from the center of the circle and drink as the men sing:
Oh my God, little Mary,
The catch is that those singing can repeat the word “now” for as long as they want, and the drinker cannot lower the porró until the entire refrain has ended. Obviously this power is meant to be abused.
To watch or partake in traditional Catalan folk dances:2 For the sardana, ball de bastons (stick dance), ball de gitanes (gypsy dance) and others, check with the group Esbart Català de Dansaires in and around Barcelona. The site is Catalan only; use Google translate to figure out what’s on or call +34 93.318.82.59 or +34 93.303.10.01 and ask about their upcoming events and dance classes. No guarantees that they'll do the porró dances above.
To find Catalans drinking beer while dancing/unsteadily weaving: Head to the Raval neighborhood of Barcelona, where there are many small clubs with rowdy pop groups, as well as streets full of drunks staggering to their own beat. The best listings for musical events in the city are to be found at lecool or at Bcnweek.
Thanks once again to our hero at El Fem Fatal for advice on the Catalan language; she of course has nothing to do with drunken porró dancing.
2. Most tourists in Barcelona who watch dance go to the just-for-tourists flamenco shows, which have sprung up to serve those who erroneously believe they are visiting Spain. This makes about as much sense as heading to China for sushi. For excellent flamenco, visit Flamenco’s homeland, the south of Spain, or else Madrid, where many of the great musicians wind up living.