What Is Subvocalization in Reading?
What is subvocalization
Subvocalization is a phenomenon that occurs when individuals silently pronounce words in their head as they read, effectively "saying" the words without producing audible sounds. It's like whispering to oneself without making any actual noise.
This happens because, for many people, learning to read initially involves reading out loud. Over time, this becomes an internalized process that continues even when we read silently.
How does subvocalization affect your reading speed?
Subvocalization can significantly impact your reading speed because it limits your reading pace to your talking speed. This happens because, with subvocalization, you're essentially saying each word in your head as you read it, which takes more time than simply recognizing and understanding the word visually.
Here's a way to understand it: most people speak at a rate of about 150 to 200 words per minute, while our brains can process visual information (like words on a page) at a much higher rate, potentially up to 400-500 words per minute or more.
So, if you're in the habit of subvocalizing when you read, it's like you're putting an artificial cap on your reading speed, limiting it to the pace at which you can speak rather than the faster rate at which you can think and understand.
Furthermore, subvocalization can cause regression, another factor that slows down reading. Regression is when the reader's eyes move backward and reread the text. If a person subvocalizes, they might need help understanding the text in the first go and must reread certain words or sentences.
This is why many speed-reading techniques involve strategies to reduce or eliminate subvocalization, such as using a pointer to guide the eye more quickly across the page or training the mind to recognize groups of words at a glance.
How To Avoid Subvocalization?
- Use a Pointer or Your Finger: Use your finger or a pointer to guide your eyes across the line as you read. This can help your eyes move smoothly and quickly from word to word and discourages your mind from sounding out each word.
- Read in Phrases: Try to group words and read them as a whole rather than individually. This helps you to understand the context faster and reduces the tendency to vocalize each word.
- Counting: Try counting from 1 to 9 silently while reading. This engages the part of the brain responsible for subvocalization and prevents it from sounding out the words you're reading. (YouTube video below)
- Speed Reading Apps: Use speed reading apps and software like Readlax, Spreeder or ReadSpeeder. These apps present words one at a time or in small groups at a configurable speed, helping to train your brain to process words without subvocalization.
- Practice Silent Reading: Practice reading silently and consciously try not to sound out words in your head. This takes some time and practice but can be quite effective.
- Expand Your Vocabulary: The more words you know, the more words you can recognize on sight without needing to sound them out.
Remember, though, that comprehension is more important than speed. While reducing subvocalization can help you read faster, ensuring you still understand what you read.
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