What Is Subvocalization and Why You Should Stop Practicing It
Everyone at one point or another has caught themself pronouncing words in their head while reading. What you are doing is called subvocalization, and it is one of the many things speed readers learn not to do when starting out. Years ago, as you were beginning to learn to read, you were taught to sound out each word in your head. While it does help improve a child’s reading skills, it becomes a nuisance later on in life.
If you continuously catch yourself practicing subvocalization, try the following tips to see if you can minimize this habit when reading.
Change the narrative inside the mind
Keep your mind from wanting to pronounce each word you come across by occupying it with something else. It certainly sounds strange at first. You need to focus on what you are reading or else you risk not comprehending what you read, right? According to speed reading experts, keeping your inner voice busy while reading can decrease your chance of falling into a subvocalization trap. A common practice is to count one, two, three in your head as you read. Another strategy is to repeat a mantra or phrase like, “I need to master this for the exam.” Practice it and see for yourself how you can count, read, and still comprehend text.
Preview the material
Before you begin reading, preview the content to understand better what you are up against. Reading a financial report is much different than reading a fantasy novel. Get the general idea of what the report is about. Does it talk about Q1 earnings for your company? Is it something regarding the stock market? Depending on what it is about will set the pace for how quickly you can get through it.
Control your eyes
It may sound silly, but training your eye muscles to read left to right can help with subvocalization and increase your reading speed. The smoother your eyes glide across the page, the less time you have to subvocalize. Use a pen or finger to guide you along the page as you read to prevent your eyes from rereading. Once you have the hang of reading text word-for-word smoothly, practice the technique of chunking. Chunking is a reading strategy where readers look for patterns within a word that they recognize, so they do not need to sound out every letter. Giving your eye muscles a good workout with a fun novel is the best way to practice these speed reading tactics.
Distract your “reading organs”
You are equipped with “reading organs” that all work together in harmony to create a reliable reading experience. Your ears play a role in subvocalization by tricking the mind into thinking you are speaking the words on the page. Occupy your ears by listening to instrumental music that won’t interfere with your comprehension of the text. Of course, you’ll need your eyes to read the text. As far as your lips, tongue, and mouth, you can distract those organs by humming along with the music or chewing gum. With the focus of the text solely on your eyes, you won’t feel the need to pronounce each word as you come across it.
Additional subvocalization information
Subvocalization isn’t all doom and gloom and can benefit you in other ways. For those who deliver speeches or presentations often, subvocalization helps you to be a more articulate speaker. It is important to note that you won’t be able to eliminate subvocalization completely. Using the tips touched on above, you can minimize the number of times you do practice it. The average reader reads roughly 150 – 250 words per minute due to subvocalization, preventing them from increasing their reading speed. Meanwhile, the average speed reader can read 450 words or more per minute by removing this habit instilled in us.
Want more tips on how to stop subvocalization and start increasing your reading speed? Sign up for our Speed Reading Foundation course and begin your journey towards becoming a more productive individual using speed reading.