Many years ago, when the world wide web was still in its infancy, I did a fair bit of research in to the various speed reading courses and techniques online.
Amazingly enough for the time, I found a word document online (Google didn’t index documents back then) that contained a number of techniques and this is still the one that sticks with me today.
The primary tenet of the document was the idea of subvocalisation, something covered in most modern courses but at the time of finding, this was the first time I’d heard of it.
What is Subvocalisation?
Subvocalisation is essentially talking in your head but in the context of reading, its ‘speaking’ the words mentally when you read them. Even now while reading this article you are probably speaking them mentally.
I Talk to Myself – So What?
The problem with subvocalistion is that you are chaining the ‘processing’ of a word to the part of your brain (the ‘Broca’s Area in the left frontal lobe) that deals with speech – effectively limiting your reading speed to that of your talking speed.
What Can I Do?
There are numerous ways to limit your subvocalisation but the method that had the most impact for me was simple, elegant and required virtually no training: distract your brain’s speech centre. Personally I did this by saying ‘1 2 3’ over and over out-load initially, then internally and then I found I didn’t need to do it all – you would imagine reading is difficult while counting but it’s not provided you keep the counting simple (hence my not counting infinitely higher).
The content of what you say doesn’t really matter – I know others who have simply chanted their own bizarre mantras (‘bing bong, ding dong’, etc.) but the key thing is this instantly ties up your speech centre, meaning you can’t subvocalise the words you are reading.
If you have mastered the technique here and want to push things further or found this didn’t work for you and want some other techniques, the widely accepted ‘bible’ of speed reading is Breakthrough Rapid Reading by Peter Kump and is well worth buying.