Subvocalizing is the act of silently speaking to yourself while reading. This is a very common habit most people have when reading. The moment you become aware of it, it may become annoying.
Simple ways to reduce subvocalizing are by humming a song or by counting 1-2-3. This way you create another voice in your head. It is not possible to create two voices in your head at the same time. The voice that is reading to you in your head will become softer or even stop.
Subvocalizing interferes with comprehension. It may help you understand your books better. You not only see the words but you also hear them (in your head). Using more than one modality to access information helps in understanding and remembering.
There are drawbacks to subvocalizing. One of the most important drawbacks is a lower reading speed. You can only read as fast as you can say the words in your head. When you can go past this and stop subvocalizing, you will be able to read faster. If this is practical and useful depends on your reading intent. Use the reading voice in your head. Don’t try to silence it. Benefit from it! If you have any questions, . I would love to assist you!
Why Do People Subvocalize?
Before you try and stop subvocalizing, it is good to know why you are doing it. There must be a reason we all do this, right? The biggest reason you subvocalize is that you learned how to read this way. You started reading letters. These turn into words. It was all about hearing the letters and words. Now you read and you still produce these sounds. Most people only hear them in their heads. Some people also move their lips while reading silently.
Subvocalizing also helps you to process information more efficiently. It also helps you to stay focused better. By hearing the information, you help yourself remember information easier.
Most people can’t even look at words without hearing them! Look around you where you see any written words. Do you hear them in your head? I am sure it doesn’t help that I told you that you subvocalize…
Remember that when you look around you, there are many items that you don’t consciously name in your head. You don’t look at your computer or phone and say: computer, phone when you see them.
You can still understand what they are and what they are doing. You can act very fast by looking at a situation that requires a quick response. By reducing your subvocalization, you could be able to read faster. The problem is that each word you see is translated into a picture in your mind. This helps you to understand what it means. So, this creates the following question…
How Do You Stop Subvocalization?
There are several ways you can stop subvocalization. Even if they don’t work for you, you will be able to reduce the voice in your head a lot. This will help you increase your reading speed. 3 easy ways to reduce subvocalization are chewing gum, songs, and reading speed. Let’s discuss this in more detail.
A very easy way to reduce subvocalization is to use chewing gum. Moving your jaws, and through this mimicking the act of talking, reduces subvocalization.
You can also hum a song. This can be done out loud or in your head. It is very difficult for your brain to do two things at the same time. When you make it a priority to hum a song, your inner voice reading in your head is reduced. Don’t make the song too difficult! Use a children’s song.
Another way to reduce the inner reading voice is to simply read faster. Reading faster makes it more difficult to keep up with your inner voice. That makes the inner voice less strong or it even stops completely.
The result of a reduced or removed inner reading voice is that you can read faster. You transform the words on the page directly into ideas and concepts you understand. While these words for some people, it may not work for everyone.
This brings us to the following question…
Should You Stop Subvocalization?
You don’t have to stop subvocalization. The moment you find it annoying, or it stops you from being an effective reader, stop doing it. Removing your inner reading voice may on the one hand help you read faster. You can also experience less comprehension. If this is not a problem for you, learn how to stop your reading voice.
There are a couple of subvocalizations going on in your head while you are reading. When you are reading, you probably experienced this. You hear the inner voice telling you what you read. But it doesn’t stop there. You are also commenting on what you read at the same time. This is not good for comprehension or recall!
When you have an inner voice that only comments or discusses what you read, that is not the worst thing. When your head is also talking about other tasks you have to do, this is unproductive. You have to stop this inner chatter. You can do that by increasing your reading speed, or by having more focus when reading. The distracting voices only occur when you are not focused enough.
Give yourself time to remove the subvocalization. Train yourself. And also know when to make use of that inner voice! Reading more difficult texts is better done a little slower with a clear inner voice. Scanning or skimming is easier at a speed your inner voice can’t keep up.
Always keep in mind why you want to do something. This also applies to stopping subvocalization. You may want to stop or at least reduce it because you feel it slows your reading down. If you read and you don’t aim for comprehension, you can start reading faster this way.
Always keep in mind that reading speed is second to comprehension. You can do everything to read faster and end up with amazing reading speed. But if you are not able to recall or comprehend your study materials… this is a waste of time.
Train yourself to read a little bit faster. The voice in your head can read faster. Guide yourself through the text and increase your pace. I am confident you are reading not fast enough right now. You will be surprised that when you read faster, you can comprehend more!