Speed Reading: Training for Elimination of Sub-vocalization

To reduce sub-vocalization, you need to stop using your sense of hearing to read. All of the exercises below help you to replace the old, slow “see–say–hear–think” way of reading with the faster “see–think” habit of thinking word meanings.

Bite your tongue

It is a first, basic technique. It is possible to apply only if you read really slowly, and you are able to observe that you are trying to articulate words while reading — you murmur or move your tongue, consciously or subconsciously.

My son, who used to read very slowly, used this technique successfully.

Occupy your internal voice with another task

- count aloud as you read “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6” and so on

-hum

-sing something simple like “la-la-la-la”

-recite simple and very deeply memorized text

And my favorite: beat a rhythm as you read.

I have no intention of acting like a blusterous lunatic while reading. I read mostly at work or in a public transport. There are people around me most of the time. But beating a rhythm is a whole different story. It is unobtrusive, so I read and pat my thigh rhythmically.

What is more, the workbook’s author claims this method is the most difficult and most effective for reducing sub-vocalization. Nothing but advantages — so I adopted it.

I just recall some melody and use its rhythm. I found also that actually hearing a rhythm is not necessary. I travel in noisy trains and buses a lot. Sometimes, so noisy that I can’t hear my own patting. But the act of patting makes me concentrate on a rhythm and hear the “sound” of the rhythm in my head.

It’s important to use your whole forearm, not just a wrist. Beating transfers a part of your attention from the hearing sense to your body motion.

Don’t get frustrated if the art of reading and occupying your internal voice simultaneously eludes you. It’s normal. You will lose a rhythm focusing too much on comprehending a text. You will beat a rhythm perfectly, but you will lose an ability to focus on reading. You will have no idea what you have just read after the exercise. The same is true with other tactics — recitation, singing, humming, and counting aloud.

Sub-vocalization: conclusion

Using one of the above techniques is obligatory if you want to improve your reading speed.

Sub-vocalization is the number one enemy of speed reading. “See–say–hear–think” is a detour we have been taught as children, and it will not serve you right in adulthood. Breaking this habitual detour is a pesky experience, but the results are well worth it.


I doubled my reading speed thanks to 10-minute practice sessions.

If you are interested in knowing more, check out my book Learn to Read with Great Speed!