June 22, 2016 Learning

Don’t Whine, Wine!

Have you ever heard anyone say this:

…..‘When I was in France last year for two weeks, my high school French  came back with a vengeance and I was talking like Maurice Chevalier (or Amélie )!” – especially after a few glasses of the best Bordeaux I ever tasted!! …

I’ve heard this so often, and indeed, the Romans were right when they famously stated in vinum veritas (in wine, truth).  It seems clear that when we imbibe, something interesting occurs with regard to opening our mind and allowing us to speak a foreign language more fluently.

As we become adults, we create a certain amount of armor around ourselves.   It shields us from pain, embarrassment and making a fool out of ourselves.  We become much more self-aware and self-critical.   Sadly, this armor can lock out learning, preventing us from being flexible enough to take in a language.  A little self-criticism and POOF! You’re finished.   And you whine; “Wah!!  I’ll never be able to learn this language!” – “it’s too hard and I just  can’t do it”.

So I say, rather than whine, wine!

First off, I want to state that I am not advocating that every time you  pick up your Italian lessons or listen to your Mandarin CDs, you  also get plastered. NO! But I have noticed that when you  pour a glass of your favorite wine, sit back, relax and let  yourself be calm, the language learning process moves along faster and somewhat more naturally.

Consider this. When you were a toddler, you didn’t even think about learning your native language, you just did it.  You  were surrounded by it, and it just  happened  miraculously. As adult, it doesn’t appear to be as spontaneous, but it can be. You need to find a way to loosen up the armor.

Relaxing your mind is one of most important keys to successful language learning.  To consciously allow yourself the space to make mistakes, sound funny when pronouncing new words or enjoying the unusual sounds of the new language is crucial.  I often talk about becoming a 7 year old with no filter.  Sometimes, enjoying a glass of your favorite Malbec can nicely assist in your journey back to being a kid.

When you  relax, your brain does as well, and will not fight you when learning  new words and hearing new sounds.   When speaking your mother tongue, your brain and mouth are in sync.  When you speak and listen to a new language, your brain goes ‘Woah!  What’s up with that?”.

We have over 250 muscles around the mouth that help us form words.  Different languages might use different muscles so not only can you actually feel physical discomfort, your brain also sends messages that something is not quite right.  It’s basically is whining – and a glass of bubbly can calm it down.

Whatever you do, you must completely ignore the inclination to stop.  One way to forge ahead and ‘trick’ the brain is to exaggerate your mouth movements, really use your best French accent to  exaggerate the pronunciation of  the words!  This tells your brain that although these new movements are odd and making you  feel  silly, you  are going to do it anyway!  Eventually, the new words and movements will become more natural and your brain gets in line.  With a little help from Mr. Malbec, you might get there a little faster.

Again, I’m not saying get so schnockered you  can’t remember what you  learned, but a little relaxation poured into your favorite wine glass may help to lubricate the joints in that armor and tell your brain that you  can  sound French, or  Italian  or Azerbaijani!


I advocate for a combination of relaxation and active learning (you need to open the lesson and learn it).   But a glass or two of your favorite pinot can help with the first part for sure!  To your health!


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