“Get along with the voices inside of my head
You’re trying to save me
Stop holding your breath
And you think I’m crazy”
Eminem featuting Rihanna – The Monster
When reading, virtually everyone hears a voice inside their head saying the words as they’re read. This is called ‘subvocalisation’. Many Speed Reading teachers will tell you that in order to speed up, subvocalisation must me eliminated. This is an almost impossible task, leading to frustration and despondency. The good news is that in reality it is not necessary to eliminate subvocalisation. In fact, the opposite is true and you should ‘get along with the voice inside of your head!’
I explain this in my book, “Improve Your Speed Reading Skills” as follows…
“If you have ever tried to stop yourself subvocalising you will probably have noticed a steep decline in comprehension.
According to the Guinness Book of Records, the fastest speaker in the world, Sean Shannon from Canada, is able to talk at 655 words per minute. To put this into context he is able to deliver Hamlet’s “To be or not to be…” soliloquy in 23.8 seconds. Speech is limited by the physical movement or the tongue, mouth and vocal chords so you can think far faster than you can speak. Speeds of 1000wpm can easily be subvocalised so it clearly doesn’t slow you down. Hearing the words in your head greatly improves comprehension. One of the really great aspects of being conscious of subvocalisation is that you can manipulate it to your advantage. Experiment varying the volume, like the control knob on your stereo. Try turning the volume down a little so that you can still hear the words but more softly at the back of your mind. When you read something important turn the volume right up so you are shouting the words in your head. This makes them really stand out in your memory. If you have met the author or heard them speak, it is interesting to imagine him or her reading their book. This is more engaging and you will recognise their turn of phrase and intonation which can greatly improve your enjoyment and understanding of a book. Think of Alan Bennett, for example, reading one of his monologues in his distinctive Yorkshire accent.”
When correctly managed, subvocalisation can assist, comprehension, retention and enjoyment without impacting on speed. A key Speed Reaing technique is to take in groups of words. This is possible whilst being semi-conscious of their sound so whilst you do not eliminate subvocalisation you become less aware if it.