Speed Reading and Sub Vocalization


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Stop talking to yourself when you read. People talk to themselves in 2 ways, by:

  • vocalizing, which is the actual moving of your lips as you read, and
  • subvocalising, which is talking to yourself in your head as you silently read.

Both of these will slow you down to the point in which you find that you can't read any faster than you can speak. Speech is a relatively slow activity; for most, the average speed is about 250 WPM (words per minute).

Reading should be an activity which involves only the eyes and the brain. Vocalization ties reading to actual speaking. Try to think of reading as if you were looking at a landscape, a panorama of ideas, rather than looking at the rocks at your feet.

Try this exercise

As you read, count to yourself, silently, from one to ten. Or, repeat the sound 'Eee', 'Eee', 'Eee'. It will be impossible to do this at the same time as sub vocalizing, so this is an excellent way escape the habit of sub vocalization.

As you do this exercise, you'll become aware that you're no longer processing the words in the tongue/throat region but in an area called 'thought stream' that you experience in the top of your head. Thought stream moves much faster than sub vocalization. And that's why people who subvocalize often have comprehension problems. There's a mismatch between reading speed and thinking speed. The Mind is constantly racing ahead of the inner voice and so it gets bored. You experience this as an inability to hold your attention on what you're reading. You have to back-skip words, or read the same line twice. As your reading speed catches up with your thinking speed, reading becomes much less tiring and your comprehension improves.


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