A recent visitor to my site inquiring about speed reading asked, "How can I move away from actually saying the words, and learn how to identify the symbols?" The question demonstrates a knowledge of one of the difficult habits to overcome in learning to speed read - sub-vocalization. Sub-vocalization is seeing the words, then saying the words in your mind, then hearing the words, and finally understanding them. It is a four step process. Reading is defined as getting meaning from printed materials - seeing them, and creating understanding. Theoretically, reading should be only two steps. This article will give 7 tips to overcome and transform this process.

Sub-vocalization is heralded by most uninformed pundits as the primary block to slow reading. It is a difficult habit to overcome. Too often speed reading learners get too hung up in the beginning because they become so focused on this habit. It is a problem for speed reading depending on how you define speed reading. If someone currently reads at 250 wpm (words per minute), and then learns to read at 500 wpm, is that speed reading? If so, that is still a speed in which the spoken word can still be understood, but it is below the visual reading threshold which occurs at about 600 wpm. From my experience of using and training tens of thousands of learners, speed
reading occurs much faster than that.

Tip One - Get physical - learn to move the eyes more rapidly and fluidly over the print. All speed reading programs cover some sort of physical eye training. Unfortunately, most programs stop with the physical training, and that is one reason why speed reading programs often get negative reviews. Keep in mind the eyes are the mechanics in reading. Learning to move the eyes more fluidly and getting them unstuck from focusing on single words and phrases is very important to getting the mind to respond faster. You do need to see the words faster. But in the early stages, this can be unsettling. Know that you are making dramatic changes to your perceptual processing of
the material and stay focused and disciplined.

Tip Two: Since sub-vocalization occurs below 600 wpm, increase your rates far beyond that. In fact, you should consistently move at least twice that speed. Breaking sub-vocalization by fast practice is useful in stimulating the brain's nervous system in a way that is similar to driving a car. You might feel comfortable driving at 30 miles per hour.
Then you drive on the freeway. As you accelerate, you focus on controlling the car as you ramp up to 70 mph. After a couple hours you exit the freeway and slow back down 30 mph. It feels very, very slow. Training your eyes and brain to focus and understand at accelerated rates follows a similar principle.

Tip Three: Think about what you are seeing. After all, reading is a thinking skill. As your eyes are passing over all the words, think about what the material is about. Do not focus on saying to yourself, "Stop Sub-vocalizing!" Paying attention to your sub-vocalization and telling yourself to stop only interferes with any comprehension. Your mind will be thinking about the sub-vocalization, not the material.

Tip Four: Use multiple rapid exposures to the material. The brain has an incredible capacity to recognize patterns and relationships of visual symbols at extremely high rates. Seeing something very fast more than once leads to recognition and then comprehension.

Tip Five: Ask questions of the material as you pass over it. Questions have a powerful impact on the mind. Questions seek answers. Allow your mind to start stringing things together. Use any clues you get to start forming a mental picture of the material.

Tip Six: Monitor your thinking. If your mind is not responding to the material below, or in front of your eyes, notice what you are thinking about, and then bring it back to the material. Constantly ask yourself, "What is this about?" When you speed up the eyes moving over the material, the mind will naturally become more engaged until you get to an overload point. When that happens, combine the above tips. The experienced speed reader can read in almost any environment with precision concentration. He/she has full control of the mind's focus.

Tip Seven: Practice, practice, and practice some more. Overcoming sub-vocalization is a tough habit to beat. Your old ways will easily slip back until you remind yourself to behave in new ways. Don't "practice" in materials that are important for you fully understand and retain. Comprehension and retention are a separate part of the process. Use materials that are interesting to you, but you don't need to master. You can work on comprehension and recall after you've reached a level of some comfort with the basic mechanics.

Overcoming sub-vocalization is only part of the process. There are other strategies and tactics in learning speed reading, such as the comprehension process and building memory and recall. All the above tips should be done together. However, the goal of overcoming sub-vocalization is not to quiet the mind. You do not want your mind to go to sleep. You want to replace sub-vocalization with your mind's response to the print. A skilled speed reader's mind is very active. It's not sounding out the words verbatim in the order of the printed sentence, but rather, you are summarizing as you go.

Author's Bio: 

Ed Caldwell is the creator and publisher of the "Masters Online Program: Dynamic Reading, Memory, and Recall" and other live and web-based learning programs. As former National Director of Instruction and Certification for the world famous Evelyn Wood Reading Dynamics program, Ed has 30 years experience teaching and testing new strategies to help people from all walks of life learn more efficiently. Trainer, speaker, and writer, he can be contacted at inquiry@productivelearn.com. He is the creator and president of Productive Learning Systems, Inc, and ProductivElearn.com, Inc. You can learn more at: www.speedreadingtactics.com/free_speed_reading_tips.html and download the free eBook, "The 10 Top Mistakes When Learning Speed Reading."

Additional Resources covering Speed Reading can be found at:

Website Directory for Speed Reading
Articles on Speed Reading
Products for Speed Reading
Discussion Board
Ed Caldwell, the Official Guide To Speed Reading