Subvocalization—the habit of silently pronouncing each word as you read it—is often cited as a barrier to reading speed. While some speed-reading methods advocate eliminating subvocalization entirely, there’s another approach: training your brain to subvocalize faster. One effective way to do this is through the use of audiobooks.
What Is Subvocalization?
Subvocalization is the practice of “speaking” the words in your mind as you read. While it can aid in comprehension, it often limits your reading speed to your talking speed, which is significantly slower than your brain’s ability to process text.
Why Use Audiobooks?
Audiobooks allow you to listen to text being read at a faster rate than you naturally subvocalize. This exposure can help retrain your brain to process text more quickly when you read normally, improving your overall reading speed.
Tools You’ll Need
- An audiobook app with speed controls (e.g., Audible, OverDrive/Libby)
- A book that you also have in text form for practice
- Identify Your Current Speed: Start by determining your current reading speed. This will serve as a baseline for tracking progress.
- Select an Audiobook: Choose an audiobook that you’re interested in and that you also have in text form.
- Initial Exposure: Begin by listening to the audiobook at a speed that’s faster than you can subvocalize—just 1.05x to 1.15x to start. Again, adjust to just past your typical reading speed. Try this for at least 30 minutes.
- Switch to Text: Several days after listening to the audiobook at the enhanced rate, switch to the text version and attempt to read at your normal speed. Pay attention to how your subvocalization speed has adjusted.
- Iterative Process: Rotate between listening to the audiobook at high speed and reading the text. Gradually increase the speed of the audiobook as you become more comfortable. Remember: each audiobook is recorded/read at different speeds, so you’ll have to adjust to what feels right to you.
- Track Progress: Periodically measure your reading speed to track improvements.
Tips for Success
Don’t rush to listen at the fastest speed possible. Incremental increases give your brain time to adapt.
The goal isn’t just speed, but speed with comprehension. If you find that you’re not retaining the material, slow down a bit.
Don’t strive for the fastest speed you can tolerate, strive for the fastest speed you find enjoyable.
Consistency Is Key
Like any form of training, consistency is crucial. Make this practice a part of your daily routine for the best results.
Audiobooks can be an effective tool for increasing your reading speed by training you to subvocalize faster. By following this guide and committing to regular practice, you can significantly improve both your reading speed and comprehension.
If you’re looking for audiobooks, check out our Blind Date With A Book latest book picks!