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When I read a text written in latin alphabet and I want to understand what it means I usually

  1. transform each word into spoken word (internal speech) and
  2. then I transform it into meaning.

I can't get rid of the first phase and reduce the reading process to the second phase only. In Wikipedia, this internal speech is described as subvocalization.

When I read in chinese I'm able to leave out subvocalization and go directly to the meaning. In many cases I learned only the meanings of symbols without knowing how to pronounce the symbol. I'm leaving out this mental burden and surf through the text without subvocalization. Reading is faster and my mind is in the relaxed state as if watching a movie without speech.

Are their some techniques I can learn to get rid of subvocalization when reading texts written in latin alphabet or cyrillic? Could you cite a few sources researching this skill?

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1 Answer 1

The two legs upon which speed reading rests, in short, are chunking and seeking. Chunking is reading multiple words at once, while seeking allows you to find those chunks quickly and efficiently. The first exercise below will solve your subvocalization problems, but I recommend doing both in order to read text more effectively.

You'll need:

  • A computer with internet access for the first exercise
  • A stopwatch and notecards (or a flashcard system of any sort) for the second exercise

Practice Chunking with Spreeder

Many combinations of words can be comprehended simultaneously, which negates the need for subvocalization. Reading multiple words at once is called chunking. A useful tool to drill this skill is Spreeder, which breaks text into arbitrary chunks and displays them a chunk at a time.

  1. Go to www.spreeder.com
  2. Click to speed read the introduction
  3. Click "spreed!"
  4. At the bottom right, click "settings" and increase chunk size to 3
  5. Increase wpm as desired

Practice Seeking with flashcards

After you are comfortable speed reading on spreeder at a high level, which should have solved your subvocalization problem, move on to seeking. Spreeder displays chunks right in the middle of the screen, which is predictable. Real world text, however, is not that convenient.

Still, Spreeder can be helpful.

  1. "Spreeder" some text with chunk size 3
  2. Write those chunks down on your flash cards
  3. Pull up or print out the original text
  4. Shuffle the flash cards and pull them at random
  5. Identify the random chunk in the text as fast as possible
  6. Use the stopwatch to time yourself after identifying 10 chunks

Doing this for 15 minutes a day will vastly improve your reading speed.

This was the basis of the speed reading course I took at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I can't cite any research from this coffeehouse, but give it a shot and see for yourself. Personally, I read casually at 500wpm at 90% comprehension and I can read up to 800wpm at 60% comprehension. I've been able to read like this since before the class, though, so feel free to take it with a grain of salt.

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Other useful strategies for reading (properly written) English are to read the first and last sentence of every paragraph and nothing in between. The way most competent writers structure their arguments is a thesis statement, then supporting statements, and then a recap. So theoretically, you could get away with reading the first and last sentences, if you're not too rigorous about knowing the supporting material. –  Brian Kung Apr 27 '12 at 1:13
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Chunking, in a psychological sense, does not refer to chopping the text into pieces of arbitrary length, but rather to to building meaningful chunks. Furthermore, research on eye movements has shown long ago that we do not read word after word "in the right order", but the eyes "jump back and forth" in the text during reading. Therefore it can be doubted that the techniques you described really speed the comprehension of a text. –  H.Muster Apr 27 '12 at 8:20
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I agree, and vaguely remember speed reading tricks of this sort as being debunked. I'll try and look up some citations if I get a chance. –  zergylord Apr 27 '12 at 20:48
    
It would be great if there was some evidence (statistical) with people who attended these exercises and made some progress in speed and test the quality of their comprehension with additional question about the text. –  xralf Apr 28 '12 at 9:41
    
A year ago I was using similar RSVP software, its name was Dictator and its advantage was chunking the text into little more meaningful chunks but still semantically quite bad (H.Muster talks about it). –  xralf Apr 28 '12 at 9:44

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