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Is Subvocalization Good For Comprehension?

Subvocalization can be a very good method for improving your comprehension. There is some research telling us that subvocalizing makes you a slower reader. People teaching speed reading will often tell you this. If you don’t read more than only these first few lines… you don’t need to reduce subvocalization. Learn to use it to become a better reader!

Why Do I Subvocalize?

We all subvocalize. Some people are not aware they do this. That is… until you read about it. You are now well aware of doing this. Does subvocalizing annoy you? Is the voice in your head becoming louder? Does hearing the text in your head make it easier to understand?

Why do you think you are subvocalizing? I believe this is a reading habit you created many years ago. When you learned how to read, you learned to spell the words out loud. When you saw the word BALL, you had to break it down and say out loud B – A – L – L. 

After you spelled the word out loud, you created the word. And that is the technique you have been using all these years. You did not become a better reader. You are still reading with the same tactics as you learned many years ago.

Think about the times you see words you don’t know yet. This could be in study books, or when you read names you are not familiar with.  You immediately start spelling them out loud (in your head)! 

The vocalizing is also seen in people who are reading difficult texts. You may even see their lips say the words. They may do this in silence or they are murmuring them. 

Again, this is not a bad thing. Subvocalizing helps you to form the words and hear them while reading. Now that you know why you do it… we should investigate the following question…

Is Subvocalization Bad For Comprehension?

Subvocalization is not bad if you use it the right way. Hearing the words in your head doesn’t make you a bad reader. Hearing the words is a good thing. This is the way you learned how to read. You vocalized the words and you understood them. 

There is a difference between subvocalizing and vocalizing words out loud. You may have experienced this before when reading a book with difficult names. You recognize the name. You have some sort of pronunciation of that words in your head. But the moment you say that word out loud, it sounds different!

This also happens when you read too fast with a voice in your head. You miss details. When you read out loud, you may need more time to vocalize the information. You will be more focused when doing this. 

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Focus is really important. You have to find the optimal speed to read and (sub)vocalize to become an effective reader. This doesn’t mean you should start reading faster or slower all the time. That is the difficult part of reading smarter or faster. Your reading speed will vary. Some parts of your book can be read faster, others need a slower approach. 

What years of teaching people smart reading has taught me is this. You probably read too slowly. Increase your reading speed! This will not reduce comprehension. It will most likely make you a more effective reader. And yes… this means that you have to subvocalize a little faster too. 

This brings us to the following question…

How Is Subvocalization Good While Reading?

Subvocalizing is good if you read at the right speed. We take in information in a few ways. We have the auditory, visual, and tactile way of doing this. This means you listen, see, or feel to take in information. Stop relying on visual information only. You can use more modalities to learn.

Subvocalizing is good because it helps you to add another tactic for learning. You also start hearing the words. You can do this by reading out loud, or by hearing the words in your mind. Some people move their lips to form words. This often happens when a text is difficult and they need even more focus. 

By the way, you can integrate the tactile component as well. Do this by walking around when reading, or by playing with a pen or ball in your hand. It even helps if you start chewing bubble gum!

Chewing Bubble Gum When Reading

Subvocalizing helps you to increase your focus. Have you ever noticed that your head is not only focused on your study book when reading? There are always words popping into your mind and attention when reading. This can be distracting, especially when you try to learn new things. It is almost as if your brain keeps you from learning something new.

Fun fact… your brain stops you from growing! All your brain wants is to keep balance in your life. Learning new things is not about balance. It is about changing your life to find a new balance. This can be frustrating or it can cause anxiety. Your brain helps you to reduce these feelings and tries to keep you where you are…

Anyway… these distracting words are there when you read too slow. Start reading faster and put more emphasis on hearing the right words (the ones from your book). The louder that voice is, the less you will be distracted by other voices and thoughts. 

A clear inner voice telling you what you read also helps you to understand much better what you read. When you are dealing with a really difficult part of your book, start reading out loud. Use a silly voice and start reading the text to yourself. It is almost as if you have a teacher sitting with you telling you about the book. 

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Always keep in mind that the goal of reading is not to read fast. You don’t go through a book to show how fast you can flip pages. They don’t test you on how little time you have spent on your book. The most important thing when reading is getting the right information from the book into your head, assignments, and papers.

A better definition of speed reading is this. Speed reading is extracting the right information in as little time as possible from a text. Sometimes this means you read slower and you read out loud. Other times, you read faster with hardly any subvocalization. 

Subvocalization is crucial in this. There is no way you can read faster than the speed with which you understand what you are reading. You don’t need to reduce subvocalization to become a speed reader. 

The most important thing to do is reduce the other voices in your head. Stop sharing opinions and other ideas while reading. Reduce that inner voice and let your text be the only words you hear. When you do that, your reading speed improves and your comprehension will explode 

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