Speed reading is not magic

Subvocalization is a bad thing.

 

Subvocalization is the tendency to pronounce words as they are read. Activating parts of the brain related to pronouncing impose a reading speed limit of 250 wpm. This common flaw is what limits performance of average readers.

Subvocalization is not always such a bad thing. In fact, with particularly "thick" material it can help slow things down, where non-verbalization would leave you plunging ahead beyond your ability to keep up with the subject.

At the same time that verbalization slows you down, consider that it might also be helping retention, simply because it repeats the ideas as they are formed in your mind. Just as people might read aloud, or write by hand, information they really want to know better.

Sometimes subvocalization allows for the apprehension of meaning that is communicated by phonetic constructs. Some of us are predisposed by our culture and developmental experiences to the parsing verbal input for levels of meaning based upon the branching of meaning within phonemes and the possibilities of meaning within definite and indefinite phonemic derivatives.

Slowing down to subvocalize may help one to find meaning, or, depending upon the source, subvocalization may only provide meaningless distraction. Sometimes it may be wise to choose to comprehend without listening. Sometimes, without listening, we may not comprehend.

Start thinking about a subject. At the same time, notice how you are thinking. Are you playing out a pseudo-verbal monolog? I believe most people do.  However, it is possible to "think" about something, without actual words. Many people probably just do this on an emotional level, sounding out how they FEEL about something. But it is possible to actually rationalize, without internal words.

The trouble with this is, you tend to lose a certain amount of processing on the info. If you speak this way, it may result in the phenomemon of "opening your mouth without thinking".

 

Subvocalization is not bad thing

Sometimes subvocalization allows for the apprehension of meaning that is communicated by phonetic constructs. A simplistic example: "The java men banged their four heads together." Some of us are predisposed by our culture and developmental experiences to the parsing verbal input for levels of meaning based upon the branching of meaning within phonemes and the possibilities of meaning within definite and indefinite phonemic derivatives.

Slowing down to subvocalize may help one to find meaning, or, depending upon the source, subvocalization may only provide meaningless distraction. Sometimes it may be wise to choose to comprehend without listening. Sometimes, without listening, we may not comprehend.

Many think that verbalization is essential to linking concepts, common experience shows that this is not so. For example, if you are a mechanic or computer engineer, and I ask you to think about how a car or computer works, the subject of your thought is too complex and multi-dimensional to be expressed in linear forms. You are able to visualize and manipulate concepts - and find answers -- to engineering problems without ever putting those thoughts into words. The same is possible with abstract ideas (which are also often highly complex and multi-dimensional), though it takes practice because there are no familiar "images" to fall back on.

Like meditation, one tends to navigate these byways of thought using intuition and feelings of depth, which are no less pragmatic than verbalizing the same idea. In some cases, especially when the thought involved is particularly complex, removing the verbal component not only vastly accelerates the thinking process, but can even lead to intuitive leaps that verbal thinking might have restrained or prevented.

At the same time that verbalization slows you down, consider that it might also be helping retention, simply because it repeats the ideas as they are formed in your mind. Just as people might read aloud, or write by hand, information they really want to know better, so vocalization is not always such a bad thing. In fact, with particularly "thick" material it can help slow things down, where non-verbalization would leave you plunging ahead beyond your ability to keep up with the subject.

Writing

 

When writing stuff you play through it in your mind before writing it. When reading, often, the relaxed thing to do is internally sound it out. And here the real kicker that almost no one notices: When plain "thinking", there is a tendency to do the same thing. I believe they are all related.

If you get really good at reading, you can sort of whisk through things, but you lose the texture of the thing. For example, if you read a novel this way, you're going to miss the major point of enjoyment of it - having your brain play around with mental imagery. I was trying to think of an analogy for what is happening, and I think I've just though of a really really appropriate one. It's like dropping the indexes on a database table, and doing "Load Data In File X'". Sure, you "load up" the data really fast. But it's just data. You don't have all the interconnections, triggers, and fun stuff like that. It takes time to generate all that other stuff around the raw data.

We need the verbal side of the brain, to do the extra analysis of the subject matter, methinks. Pure thought, and also the base level of reading methinks , is the hard logic, symbolic manipulation part of the brain. The other stuff  is most related to the aural part of the brain, I think. I've never subvocalize that I can remember. I guess this is a great help for getting through most ordinary prose and technical documents. But sometimes I get the idea to try some Kerouac or Shakespeare, the kind of beautiful stuff but usually doesn't make a lick of sense unless you hear it out loud.

I start out trying to read aloud, or at least subvocalize, but it usually feels slow and bogged down, or my throat muscles get tired, or what have you, and I go back to ordinary reading, only to realize some time later that I haven't understood a damn thing for pages. So I'd kind of like a hint for training myself to slow down at will without getting fatigued.

The "small, still voice" we hear while reading (subvocalization), is natural and is required for all reading below 900 words per minute. The average college graduate reads "basic" level of difficulty material at 250-300 words per minute, with 70% comprehension, therefore they subvocalize until they reach speed reading, which begins at 900 wpm.

 

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