When you learned to read, it was probably a guided process, in a group of other young children, all of you carefully sounding out letters and syllables until you could say each word out loud correctly. That may have been the right way for you to learn at the time, but if you’re still using that method to read, you’re slowing yourself down. If the habit of vocalization (saying words out loud) or subvocalization (saying words to yourself) is one that you’ve kept since you first learned to read, then your reading speed might not be much faster than it was back then.
Most people don’t actually read out loud to themselves, but many people unconsciously move their lips while they read. Many more people actually take the time – again, unconsciously – to pronounce the words in their head as they read. By doing this, they limit their reading speed to what how fast they can pronounce words, whether in their heads or out of their mouths. The process slows down even further when some words are unfamiliar, whether in meaning or in pronunciation.
By eliminating the focus on individual words and relying on the brain’s instinctive ability to fill in meaning by context, you can break the habit of subvocalization, especially if you’re only creating a purely internal word-by-word echo of what you’re reading. There are two things you can do to help eliminate this habit: first, work on expanding the number of words you focus on at one time by reading in “chunks” of words; and second, practice visualizing what you’re reading. By letting your eyes and brain absorb words in groups, rather than one by one, you’ll automatically bypass your mouth, because it’s impossible to say all words in a group at once. By visualizing and creating mental images of what you’re reading, you’ll involve the right side of your brain as well as the left, which will increase the activity across your cortex and speed up all of your mental functions.
Cross-posted at The Vocabulary Builder’s Blog.