Understanding Subvocalization and How to Read Faster

When you settle into a cozy corner with a book, do you ever catch yourself silently mouthing the words as you read? If so, you’re not alone. This phenomenon, called subvocalization, something I’m very familiar with, and it is a natural part of the reading process for many. But what exactly is subvocalization? And can it impact your reading speed?

Headphones on a stack of books representing subvocalization

What is Subvocalization?

Subvocalization refers to the silent, internal pronunciation of words while reading. It’s like having a quiet conversation with yourself, pronouncing each word in your head as you go along. Some people physically mouth the words or even whisper them, while others simply “hear” them inside their minds.

There’s a reason many of us subvocalize. It’s a habit we develop when we first learn to read, sounding out words to understand and internalize them. However, as we become more proficient readers, most people continue to subvocalize, even when it’s no longer necessary.

Is Subvocalization a Bad Thing?

Not necessarily. For many readers, subvocalization aids comprehension and retention. By engaging with the text both visually and auditorily, it can help reinforce the material.

However, subvocalization can hinder those aiming to increase their reading speed. Pronouncing each word, even silently, takes time. By relying on subvocalization, you essentially limit your reading speed to your speaking speed.

Next Steps with Subvocalizing

Woman subvocalizing whilst reading

How to Overcome Subvocalization and Read Faster

For those who wish to read faster, minimizing or eliminating subvocalization can help. Training yourself out of this habit can be challenging but not impossible. A variety of strategies can help, from tracking the text with your finger to using tools and techniques that force your brain to process words faster than you can subvocalize them such as hand pacing. If you’ve tried overcoming subvocalization with minimal success, keep reading to see what worked for me.

How to Work With Subvocalization via Positive Reinforcement to Read Faster

One innovative approach to overcome subvocalization is audiobook training to “hear” words faster. This method has by far worked the best for me, personally. By listening to audiobooks at increased speeds, you can train your brain to process information faster and maximize the speed at which you can subvocalize and still enjoy the content. To delve deeper into this method, check out our guide on “How to Read Faster If You Subvocalize: A Guide to Audiobook Training”.


Subvocalization is a natural part of reading for many, but it can slow some people down. If you’re aiming to elevate your reading speed, understanding and addressing subvocalization can be a game-changer. Whether you choose to embrace it or minimize it, the key is to find a reading style that’s comfortable and effective for you.

And remember, no matter how you read, the joy of discovering a new book is universal. When you’re looking for something new to enjoy, consider taking a chance on a mystery read at Hartfield’s Blind Date With A Book to reignite your passion for reading.