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Subvocalization-7 Ways to Minimize It


Read Faster By Following These 7 Amazing Ways to Stop Subvocalization

Some bad reading habits such as Subvocalization can impair your reading speed significantly.

So, you might be wondering?

What the hell is Subvocalization?

Subvocalization may be defined as the internal speech or a voice made while reading a word or text in your head, thus allowing you to imagine the sound of the word as it is read.

It is a form of silent speech, which is necessitated by some people while reading.

For many, it is a natural process when reading and the words which are read are articulated without making audible sounds.

Needless to emphasize here, that this silent speech of articulating every word that we come across, puts a limit to our reading speed.

People who subvocalize, cannot read faster than the speed at which they can silently speak out the words they read which are around 200words per minute.

This is the reason that it is imperative to minimize subvocalization if you intend to read faster and increase your reading speed 3 -4 times or even more.

Here are some of the best courses that can help you in tackling this habit and read faster.

Super Learner 2.5 Review

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Subvocalization-Research and Overview

How does Subvocalization Develop?

Subvocalization occurs when we silently read to ourselves the reading material that we are reading.

We pick up this habit during our childhood or in schools when we learn how to read.

Reading aloud the text helps us and our teachers to ascertain whether we have picked up reading the words accurately.

Thus, subvocalization begins in childhood as a way of learning to read, and supports comprehension of new words and helps the teacher in checking the development of reading skills.

However, even when people grow up, they continue to vocalize or read aloud, the text they are reading.

In most cases, they might shed the habit of reading aloud the words, but they continue to say or speak the texts silently in their mind.

This habit of subvocalization stays lifelong with many and tend to slow down the reading speed. 

Read More: Bad Reading Habits

It is worth noting that reading is the process of recognizing texts or symbols and interpreting them.

It is a mental process that does not need to require any verbal reinforcement for comprehension. You do not need to speak out the words to understand the written text.

What subvocalization does is, it slows down the process of reading and consequently the speed of reading to bring it at par with the speed of speech.

This restricts the reading efficiency and limits the speed of reading.

No wonder then, that person who can simply glance through the reading material will read much faster than a person who subvocalizes the reading material.

This is the reason that every adult and adolescent should outgrow this habit and learn to read the text without pronouncing them inaudibly in their mind.

Early Research and Modern Views

Subvocalization has been researched since 1868, and about thirty years later, in 1899, Curtis, a researcher, confirmed it through his experiment that during subvocalization there is a considerable movement of the larynx.

This meant that those who subvocalize or silently read, make the movement with their voicebox similar to those they make while speaking audibly.

Much later in 1950, Edfelt made an electrically powered instrument that could record the movement of the larynx.

However, the opinions were divided and it was concluded that subvocalization or silent speech is a developmental activity which should not be interfered with during developmental stages.

The modern view held by researchers like B.A. Levy, B. Klob, L. Curtis and many others, consider reading as a mental activity and subvocalization a habit that inhibits reading and effective learning.

However, the fact remains that reading and learning involves more than one part of the brain, and the brain mechanics of subvocalization are still to be fully researched and understood. 

What Happens When You Subvocalize?

When you subvocalize during reading, the mind and body get engaged with lots of activities that are neither desired nor necessary.

When you are reading, the eyes are busy seeing the words and the mind is busy processing the visual information.

However, when you subvocalize then the larynx or the voice box along with the mouth,  is busy articulating the words your eyes see.

You may be moving your tongue and lips or voicing the words silently in your mind. 

When you try to speak something, your ears prick up in an attempt to hear what is being spoken. 

All these simultaneous activities put a strain on the brain which is already busy trying to decipher the visual information and matching it with memory to make sense out of it.

Thus, understanding and learning get affected to that extent.

Breaking the habit of subvocalization is necessary to read and learn faster.

Because when you subvocalize then you limit your reading speed to the speed of speech, as you cannot read faster than you can silently read out the words.

When you eliminate subvocalization, you will be amazed to notice how your reading speed has doubled or tripled.

Can Subvocalization Be Useful Sometimes?

Subvocalization can be useful at times, especially when it is done deliberately.

While reading, when one comes across unfamiliar or new technical words, then subvocalizing such words imprints them better in our memory.

Also, pronouncing these words silently improves our understanding of the word and helps memorize its spellings.

Once in a while, reading out loud can also be helpful when you are memorizing a passage or some text word for words, like a script for a play, or a presentation. 

7 Proven Ways to Minimize Subvocalization

There are several tried and tested ways to minimize or eliminate subvocalization altogether.

These techniques have been used successfully by Speed Reading Specialists and in their speed-reading programs.

To speed-read, it is necessary to eliminate subvocalization, else one cannot progress beyond the speed of normal speech.

This is the reason that every speed reading course lays special emphasis on eliminating or minimizing subvocalization.

A few of the selected tips are given below. These do not require any special equipment and just need to be practiced with sincerity.

These are tested and proven with data obtained from the participants who have undertaken the speed reading courses.

#1.  Using a Pointer

Use your finger, pen or pencil and run it under the printed text and guide the eyes, It will help in focusing on the text.

This will help in maintaining and enhancing the reading speed, as well as keeping a check on subvocalization and minimizing it.

#2. Distract Your Inner Voice With Something Else

There are some ways to keep your inner voice busy or distracted.

A very popular method is to silently say some repetitive words like ‘one-two-three’ again and again.

You can use any other word or phrase of your choice. The word should be easy enough for you to repeat silently in your mind.

This will prevent you from subvocalizing the exact words that you are reading.

Later on, you will be able to focus your eyes on the reading material and continue reading it without this subvocalization with some practice.

#3. Keeping Your Mouth Occupied

You know how difficult it is to speak with your mouth full.

keeping your mouth occupied is one sure way of minimizing subvocalization.

You can keep chewing gum in your mouth, or suck a candy. This will keep your mouth and tongue busy and distract you from saying the words silently.

#4. Putting an Object Perpendicular to Your Mouth

One tip that have been found to be useful by many experts is to put a pen or pencil perpendicular to your lips and holding it with your lips.

This will prevent you from opening your mouth or move the lips.

You can also put any other object large enough not to be swallowed.

Ensure that these objects are clean and hygienic.

#5. Listening To Music

This is an enjoyable alternative which not only helps you avoid subvocalization but also keeps you relaxed and concentrates better on the reading task.

Choose the music carefully, lest it distracts you. Soothing, soft, instrumental or classical music is preferred for this.

#6. Teaching Your Eyes To Take In More

After you have mastered to read with your finger running below the line being read;

Now, it is time to speed up this process by taking in more words at a time.

This will not only make your reading faster, but you will be left with no time to subvocalize the words.

The process is to take a thin cardboard and cut a window with its width that of the page and height to fit in a line of text.

Slide this window line by line on the page so that at one time you can one line of text. Force yourself to read the entire line in a glance.

Once you are able to read this way, you can enlarge the height of the window to accommodate two lines.

As your reading speed increases, subvocalization of text will get minimized to a great extent.

#7. Force Yourself To Read Faster

Often, forcing yourself to read faster, at least twice the speed you normally read, can be the best remedy.

This will prevent your mind from getting the luxury of time to subvocalize.

Many speed reading courses have a software called Rapid Serial Visual Presentation (RSVP).

Read: Best Speed Reading Courses

You can put the text you wish to read and then let the software flash the words at a speed that you can choose.

Choose a reading speed that is much higher than your normal reading speed.

You can also choose the number of words that you wish to be flashed on the screen at a time.

This will force you to follow the texts that appear on screen as blinking texts; leaving no room for the mind to indulge in subvocalization.

This has been found to be one of the most effective and proven ways to minimize subvocalization.


Subvocalization is a phenomenon that all literate persons have encountered at least once in their life.

Interestingly, almost everyone learns to read by audibly repeating the text that they are reading.

Later, it is no longer necessary to read aloud, but you continue to pronounce and articulate the words they are reading.

This reading may take place silently and people may even be unaware of it.

However, subvocalization puts a limit to the speed at which people can read.

Despite having the capabilities, their reading speed is stuck at the level at which they can speak or articulate the words.

Since reading is an entirely separate mental process that does not require auditory reassurance; it is advisable to get rid of this habit or at least minimize it.

It is quite possible to minimize subvocalization to a great extent by inculcating good reading practices.

There are several speed reading courses and institution that teach how to get rid of subvocalization and speed up reading.

Do you have your own tip or any suggestions to eliminate or minimize subvocalization?

Please share it in the comments section below.

LAST UPDATED: April 24th, 2019

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