One common reading technique that many of us use can significantly slow down our reading speed. It’s called subvocalization, and it’s a common technique many of us use in order to understand fully what we’re reading.
When you subvocalize, you say the words you’re reading to yourself. You might do this out loud as you read, or you might simply do it in your head as you read each word. Some people whisper to themselves under their breath while they read, while others move their lips along with the words, even if they don’t say them out loud.
While subvocalizing is a fairly common reading technique that many people use, it can significantly reduce your reading speed. When you sub vocalize, your eyes naturally slow over each word as your brain comprehends what the word is. As you take time to vocalize that word in some fashion (whether that is to whisper the word under your breath, say the word to yourself in your head, or use some other technique) you also take time away from your reading speed.
While most people subvocalize to some extent while they’re reading, the people who are most likely to do it consistently are those who lack confidence in their reading skills. If you’ve never considered yourself a strong reader, or you learned to read at a late age, or English is not your first language, you might require or believe you require extra help with your reading. Subvocalizing the words as you read them can help you to develop confidence in your reading skill.
Even people who lack confidence in their reading skills can be successful speed readers, however. Once you learn to focus on what you’re reading, and skim your eyes over the words in a focused effort without zeroing in on specific words, you’ll find that your reading comprehension likely stays at the same level it currently is. For some people, their reading comprehension actually increases once they begin speed reading.
To help yourself stop subvocalizing, try these techniques:
- First, be conscious of the habit. When you’re reading one day, and not practicing speed reading techniques, pay attention to whether or not you subvocalize. If you do subvocalize make note of how you do it. Do you whisper words underneath your breath as you read, or do you simply and noiselessly vocalize the words in your head?
- Now, try to kick the habit. If you pronounce words to yourself in your head simply stop doing it. This requires you to speed up your reading and use the other speed reading techniques we have identified. In particular, you can use the pre-reading techniques that we have talked about to help you with subvocalizing. If you skim through a passage quickly and discover which words and concepts are most important, it will be easier for you to skim through that document reading it quickly and without subvocalizing later on.
- Some people learn that they stop subvocalizing when they hum to themselves as they read. You might try this technique and see if it works for you.
- Finally, if you’re someone who whispers words under your breath or who moves your lips with the words as you read, one technique that can be effective to stop this is to simply put a finger on your lips to stop them from moving as you read.