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  #1  
Old 24th November 2009, 11:28 AM
Oakems Offline
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Can you read without sub-vocalization? Any tips on how to do this?

Hi all, I'm wondering how many people out there can read without sub-vocalizing each word? Sub-vocalization is where you think the words out loud in your head as your reading them. It's the method we're usually taught at school, but it can be rather inefficient later in life as it slows down your reading speed to just a little faster than you can talk.

I'm trying to learn this and am finding it quite difficult. Does anyone have any tips? Or does anybody know of any Linux apps that can help with this? I'd appreciate your input.
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  #2  
Old 24th November 2009, 11:40 AM
aleph Offline
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If you keep concentrating on "not to sub-vocalize", you will lose the game.

I usually found myself silently vocalizing what was being read when the contents were short, uninteresting, or too unfamiliar. When I'm concentrating on the contents and nothing else I can be really fast.
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  #3  
Old 24th November 2009, 11:54 AM
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This might sound kind of silly but try the typing tutorial. I think it is called Tux Typer or something like that. Words fall and the student is forced to type the words really fast or poor Tux is bonked on the head. Give it a try. If you "sub-vocoize" it is much easier to loose.
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  #4  
Old 24th November 2009, 12:09 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Oakems View Post
Sub-vocalization is where you think the words out loud in your head as your reading them. It's the method we're usually taught at school
Ahh, I can still remember my 3rd grade subvocalization teacher. Not sure I'd agree with the latter part, in terms of specifically being taught. (I may be biased though as I was reading before I got to kindergarten.)

I'd say that sub-vocalization is the by-product of growing up as a verbal speaker of the language. The need to subvocalize is built in far before we even start reading. I'm not sure I can buy claims that it's even possible to read without subvocalizing (even if subvocalization can be subconscious) - especially deep subject matter.
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  #5  
Old 24th November 2009, 01:28 PM
Oakems Offline
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Well aleph, it seems you may have lost the game inadvertently! You must have been concious of the game in order to post that link, which, by the rules of the game, constitutes as a loss! So aleph, I wasn't clear from your reply whether or not you can eliminate subvocalization from your reading? And if you can, how do you achieve this? (this means not saying the word in your head as you read, just to be clear).

Thanks steelaworkn for the suggestion, I've learnt to touch type and I can do this while thinking of other things, so to some extent I must not be subvocalizing everything, but when I start to read I find it hard to switch off my internal monologue. Good suggestion though, I have been using it and I'm going to stick with it because it is helping. My hope is that leaning not to subvocalize often, will improve my reading and not only that but help me type even faster too!

I can do it with numbers pretty easily, if I see an 8, I don't have to mentally think 'eight' to know what it is! It's the same with objects, we all do it, if you see a book, you don't think "book" you just know it's a book. I think my problem may be getting bogged down with comprehension, I need to get past the stage of worrying that eliminating subvocalization will result in bad retention of what I've read. I guess practice makes perfect.

Thanks tjvanwyk for your input, I was horribly generalizing when I said that that's the way we're usually taught at school. I agree with you, we're not really taught that but we are normally taught from a young age to vocalize (sound out) words as we read, especially ones that are unfamiliar to us. It's how we learn pronunciation. I think from there (and it's not going to be the same for everyone), we're taught the natural progression which would be to start reading without having to sound out words and without moving your lips. This in my opinion, leads to subvocalization when reading as we're not told it is possible to read without it!

I'd have to believe claims of non-subvocalization while reading, I have it on good authority (who wasn't much help on how to do this I must say), and like I've said earlier we all do this from time to time, some more than others. For instance, if you were to see a guitar, would you mentally have to think "That's a guitar" to yourself before knowing what it was? Probably not. Okay, a guitar may be an object and not a word, but if you were to see a 'stop' sign or a 'way out/way in' sign, you wouldn't have to mentally sound out the words in order to read it, in fact, you could probably read both words at the same time. This is proof of non-subvocalization, because you can't say two words at the same time, so it wouldn't be possible for you to subvocalize. Also, and this is one method for learning to eradicate subvocalization, try reading something while counting one, two, three, four over and over in your head. You'll find that this can be done fairly easily, and if your internal monologue is busy counting and you can still read, then it must be possible, but to what degree, I don't know? I don't like this method of using white noise to block out subvocalization because it can't be very good for comprehension or retention, but, I guess you only use it to familiarize yourself with the technique. Then you can remove the white noise (1234 in your head), and try it without. I guess I should practice on material that I don't need to learn!

Last edited by Oakems; 24th November 2009 at 02:21 PM.
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  #6  
Old 24th November 2009, 02:58 PM
aleph Offline
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I'm no expert, but my point was to take it easy. Just like The Game, deliberately trying to inhibit sub-vocalization is, I guess, unwinnable.

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He who devotes himself to learning seeks from day to day to increase his knowledge; he who devotes himself to the Tao seeks from day to day to diminish his doing. He diminishes it and again diminishes it, till he arrives at doing nothing. Having arrived at this point of non-action, there is nothing which he does not do.
-- Lao Tzu
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  #7  
Old 24th November 2009, 05:18 PM
Oakems Offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aleph View Post
I'm no expert, but my point was to take it easy. Just like The Game, deliberately trying to inhibit sub-vocalization is, I guess, unwinnable.
This may to true to some extent, and if you never try, you'll never fail, but that doesn't automagically lead you to success. I do take your point and I respect it, but I'm not going to learn something by ignoring it. I understand the Tao philosophy and if you're into it I would suggest "The Tao of Pooh" as a good read. It explains the teachings of Taoism through the medium of Winnie the Pooh! It compares Taoism with Winnie's life and shows you just how in-tune Mr.Pooh-bear is with Taoism.

At this very moment I am actually exercising a Taoist concept myself, one of humility. I understand that I cannot find all the answers myself, and I am willing to search for them and to be humble enough to ask for help when I need it. Not all people who seek wisdom are wise, but those who ignore it tend to be ignorant and unwise. Even wise people themselves need help from other wise people and have enough humility to seek it.

This is a quote taken from Wiki "A wise person acts without claiming the results as his; he achieves his merit and does not rest (arrogantly) in it: -- he does not wish to display his superiority."
According to this, which was taken from the "Tao Te Ching" (which I've read parts of) he achieves his merit and does not rest in it. To me, that means you can strive and work hard to achieve your goals, and that there is nothing vain in doing so. Once you get there and you've achieved what you set out to do, keep humble, understand that you can still learn even from an amateur, don't be arrogant or have an air of superiority because of your new found knowledge. The great thing about Taoism for me, is that it is not set in stone, it is not Confucianism! One concept can be interpreted in many ways because of its philosophical nature. It is just sad that Taoism is not always practical, take owning a car for example, you could be constantly worried about it being stolen or defaced, Taoism would teach you to discard the car, hence freeing your mind, but sometimes that just not practical.
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  #8  
Old 24th November 2009, 05:49 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Oakems View Post
Thanks tjvanwyk for your input, I was horribly generalizing when I said that that's the way we're usually taught at school. I agree with you, we're not really taught that but we are normally taught from a young age to vocalize (sound out) words as we read, especially ones that are unfamiliar to us. It's how we learn pronunciation. I think from there (and it's not going to be the same for everyone), we're taught the natural progression which would be to start reading without having to sound out words and without moving your lips. This in my opinion, leads to subvocalization when reading as we're not told it is possible to read without it!
Fair enough. Either way, whether it's "taught" consciously/formally or socially conditioned is sort of immaterial. Put it this way. Like it or not, we think in terms of words. Like it or not, verbal language is prior to written language in more ways than one. First, verbal language, unwritten, far predated written language.

More importantly, babies, even while in the womb, are exposed to verbal language far before the thought of teaching the youngsters to read is even considered. Cognitive ability, increased abstract thought, and increased reasoning all develop alongside of language development. It's a complex interplay, but suffice it to say it's hard to conceive of the human intellect (and the things it does, like reading) without the verbal linguistic factor.

Of course, it's a big question of psychology, linguistics, and all sorts of other fields. I guess what I'm trying to say that it's almost impossible to separate abstract cognition of concepts and objects from verbal language cognition - simply because of the fact that our ability to speak verbally develops before we start to comprehend the more "trippy" concepts like the present one. It's only semi-sarcastic to quip that framing our perception of the world in the context of spoken language seems to be a distinguishing characteristic of human intellect compared to that of other primates.

Whatever the case may be - whether or not subvocalization is "natural" in some evolutionary sense or not (which of course is a moot thought considering that there's nothing really "evolutionary" about reading and writing in the first place) - there are studies that suggest that those who do try to suppress subvocalization can damage their reading cognition.

EDIT:
On a less serious note, I'm reminded of a Mitch Hedberg bit that went something like this: "I was walking with my friend and he said, 'wow, the weather's trippy.' I said, 'Perhaps it's not the weather that's trippy but our perception of the weather that is indeed trippy.' Then I realized I just should have said.... 'yeah.'"
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Last edited by forkbomb; 24th November 2009 at 05:55 PM.
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  #9  
Old 24th November 2009, 07:39 PM
R3353 Offline
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subvocalization in neuroscience research

@Oakems,
I think you are mixing two well defined cognitive processes - processing words and speaking words - check out

J. V. Pardo and P. T. Fox, Preoperative assessment of the cerebral hemispheric dominance for language with CBF PET. Hum. Brain Mapp. 1 (1993), pp. 57–68.

I can send you a copy if you can't get access.

This all reminds me of a paper I cited a while back: http://www.springerlink.com/content/...3/fulltext.pdf

I would look into the more general topic of speed reading rather than trying to reteach yourself something that has become an intrinsic life skill.
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  #10  
Old 24th November 2009, 10:26 PM
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Nope. I can not read without subvocalizing. I can barely communicate anything without wanting to bust out in a burst mode thougthball. So if you don't want me bursting into thoughtballs you're going to have to live with sub-vocalization beause that's how clairsentients roll.
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Old 25th November 2009, 03:47 PM
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Is this an example of reading without subvocalization ?: You are handed a list of words and asked to scan through it and find the word "grapefruit". I think most people would not "say" each word to themselves as they scanned. So, suppose that you look at a paragraph of text as a list of words and scan through it for a particular word. Perhaps you could train yourself to pick up the meaning of the paragraph while scanning.
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Old 25th November 2009, 06:33 PM
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If I read a novel, I don't necessarily know the characters' names afterwards. In other words, less common surnames are just registered as a shape on paper — I don't stop to vocalise them. That surely counts as reading without subvocalisation.
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Old 25th November 2009, 10:57 PM
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Anyone know the basis of the technique sold by photoreading.com?
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  #14  
Old 26th November 2009, 08:18 PM
Oakems Offline
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tjvanwyk, first things first, I'm glad you didn't just say "Yeah," that would've been no fun at all and maybe a little confusing. After all, we learn and grow the more we converse with each other. I think it is our duty to ourselves to accumulate as much datum as we can to aid us in making informed decisions. I do however, think you're missing my point somewhat. My point has nothing to do with when or how subvocalization came to be, or whether subvocalization is natural, but whether or not it is possible to read without it. From your writing I'm inclined to say that you feel eliminating subvocalization could be pernicious for our reading cognition. This is a fair enough point and I'm not going to be silly by saying "Nay, you're wrong," I do not have all the facts. I do however welcome the idea of discussion. You say there have been studies that suggest those who do try to suppress subvocalization can damage their reading cognition. I don't suppose you could cite any of the studies you talk of?

I've been reading about and it seems there are two opposing arguments. One is that subvocalizing while reading can slow you down and inhibit you from achieving your full potential. The other suggests that without subvocalization you may be able increase your reading speed, but it will be extremely detrimental to your comprehension and retention of the text. I'm not willing to take sides yet, it would be folly for me to do so, I'd prefer to take more of an equivocal stance on the matter until I can find more information.

@R3353: I don't think I am mixing two cognitive processes, although I may not be explaining myself clearly. What I'm talking about is the ability to read without the need to pronounce the words in your head as your read them. Think of it like this; when you see your full name written on paper, you can tell what it says without the need to mentally pronounce each word separately in your mind. You can chunk those words together and read them as one. In fact we already do this on a lesser scale, we chunk letters together to make words. When we read a word, we tend to see the word as a whole, we don't read it letter by letter. Right, now if we can expand that back to words and have two Words together, like at the top of this page where it says 'New Posts,' we could probably read both those words at the same time and understand what they mean. Since you cannot say two words at the same time, you wouldn't have been able to subvocalize those words, at least not on a conscious level, because it would be like saying two words at once. Reading more than one word at a time is called chunking. I don't know the validity of chunking yet, I'm sure this would help me in answering the question of subvocalization. Of course with the internet being the way it is, it is not always easy finding veritable answers of a scientific nature. I have found this though; http://www.speedreading.com/science/science.shtml it has information on chunking and proves we don't read one letter at a time.

@tashirosgt: Interesting thought, scanning the page like that would definitely be a form of non-subvocalization. Although if you were only scanning the page for one word, that may not help retention or comprehension much. I'm not sure how Paul Scheele does it (the author of the book), but I've heard he uses the tangerine method, only I think that's just to get you relaxed before reading. Derren Brown can do it as well, although he doesn't tell you how.
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