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Whenever I read (silently), I hear a voice in my head speaking the written words. I've tried to mute this voice while reading, but have been unable to thus far.

Is this a universal aspect of reading, or a personal development?

  • 1
    +1! This is a very interesting question. I don't find myself having that sound in my mind in any of the languages I can speak almost fluently. However, as @Mysti's comment subtly points out, people act on this matter very differently. I'm keenly waiting for answers to see whether this is a "learner's" issue or is it something language-oriented or -related. It might even be a psychological phenomenon but that would render this question off-topic. – M.A.R. Jun 15 '15 at 15:58
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I'm having trouble finding a better source, but Assessing the importance of subvocalization during normal silent reading suggests that different people subvocalize more or less, in the sense that trying to talk while reading is easier or more difficult for various people.

Many tools and programs for speed reading claim that you can, will, and should minimize your subvocalization in order to read faster, which would support the idea that one can train/learn to decrease their amount of subvocalization. That said, http://skeptoid.com/episodes/4229 refers to claims by professors that subvocalization can't be completely eliminated without sacrificing understanding.

For a personal example, I have little trouble being interrupted/carrying on conversations while reading (although I suspect my reading speed suffers), but a friend of mine essentially always subvocalizes and has a very hard time continuing where they left off when someone speaks to them while they are reading.

  • I think I've seen that Skeptoid article before (at a different URL?), but it leaves me, well, highly skeptical, since I can easily test myself at better than 1200 wpm on nonfiction with excellent comprehension. (Skimming is even faster, substantially so, but does sacrifice some comprehension.) Whether or not I subvocalize I can't be totally sure, but it seems highly improbable. – Nathan Tuggy Jun 16 '15 at 0:39
  • @Nathan I can't speak to its veracity, and don't know much about the studies it refers to. If it's just a bad link feel free to edit it out. – Mark S. Jun 16 '15 at 2:23
  • 1200 wpm is physically impossible; Nathan must be skimming, which can be effective at speeds even beyond 1200 wpm but is not simply accelerated reading. To understand why, please see: journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1529100615623267 – snailboat Jun 10 '18 at 20:52
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What type of sound ? No whenever I read silently, I didn't hear any type of sound in my mind.

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Sub-vocalization is a typical occurrence, especially among early English Language Learners. Actually, even people fluent in English sub-vocalize as well. People often pick up this habit early on and carry it with them throughout their later years and stick with it.

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It is both a fairly universal aspect of learning and a personal development.

Most children learn to read by reading aloud. When they transition to silent reading, a certain amount of the process remains, at least for a time.

Whether or not this is a good thing, and whether or not you should suppress your inner voice depends very much on why you read. If you wish to absorb abstract information as quickly as possible, still the voice - it will just slow you down.

However, without the voice you will find it difficult to appreciate poetry, especially the parts which deal with pronunciation, and many aspects of recorded spoken speech.

As an example, Kipling's "The Explorer" can be read silently, although it may hardly seem worth the effort. But read aloud, its hypnotic qualities are quite extraordinary.

Till a voice, as bad as Conscience, rang interminable changes
On one everlasting Whisper day and night repeated—so:
“Something hidden. Go and find it. Go and look behind the Ranges—
“Something lost behind the Ranges. Lost and waiting for you. Go!”

With, of course, due apologies for those who loathe Kipling.

"Do you like Kipling?" "I don't know, I've never kippled."

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