If you’ve ever tried to speed up your reading, you probably realized right away just how difficult it is to avoid sounding out the words in your head. It’s something called vocalization, and it’s one of the most persistent reading habits you need to get rid of in order to speed read to the maximum of your brain’s capacity.
What is vocalization or subvocalization in reading?
When you “hear” the words you’re reading on a paper or screen, even if only inside your head, you’re doing what’s called vocalization. You’re reading with your mouth instead of just your eyes, and this inevitably slows you down.
For most people, the eyes go faster than the mouth. That means reading silently is much faster than pronouncing words and phrases out loud. It is difficult to speed read as fast as you’d like if you still engage in this time-consuming habit.
To be clear up front, vocalization is very difficult to completely eradicate. Even the most proficient speed readers sometimes vocalize, but they know how to keep it in check.
Why you should get rid of vocalization when you read
If everyone does it, you might ask, why should I worry about it? Here are a few reasons:
You’ll Read Faster
When you vocalize every single word you read you are slowing down your reading speed. People who can speed read at 800 wpm vocalize very little – that’s what allows them to read at this pace in the first place.
You’ll Improve Comprehension
If you vocalize the words you read, you’re putting extra cognitive burden on your brain. When you speed read, all of your brain needs to be focused on processing what you are reading, and not on sounding the words out in your head (or worse, murmuring them out loud). The more focused you are on comprehension, the more you can extract from what you read.
How to eliminate vocalisation when you speed read
As you’ve realized by now, vocalization sabotages your speed reading ambitions. It’s completely unnecessary and slows you down to the point of ridiculousness.
To stop subvocalization you need to push yourself into reading whole clusters of words. While still maintaining a reading pace slightly faster than your comfortable speed.
When you see words, and even whole phrases, as semantic entities, you leave no alternative to your brain but to fast-process what you read in order to quickly move onto the next chunk.
As a result, you have no time or ability to sound the words in your mouth or head.
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