In talking about speed reading, Scott H. Young mentions a word I hadn’t come across: Subvocalization. He defines it: “Subvocalization is saying the words inside your head as you read them.” I’ve done this almost my entire life and didn’t know there was a word for it. Hearing words in my head is a natural habit and I never thought about whether others do it.
Actually, I did once. A reporter interviewed me when I was in high school. We talked about speech and hearing. I mentioned that even with my hearing aids turned off, I still “hear sounds” in my head when someone talks or when I read or write. Maybe I thought this was a “deaf” thing — just never seriously thought about it until I read Young’s post.
Now that I think about it — not sure it’s a deaf thing because not all deaf people wear hearing aids. I wonder if those who don’t wearing hearing aids have their own sounds they hear in their heads — it might be different than what we know.
It’s that same habit that helps me as a writer. As I write this, I’m hearing these words in my head. It works almost as well as saying the words out loud. Rarely do I find something doesn’t work out loud when it worked in my head.
When I read, I hear the book’s words in my head. Young says that if a person wants to read faster, it means to stop subvocalizing. Oh boy. This was HARD to do and when I did it, I felt like I was staring at the book’s pages and couldn’t absorb the words. I’m not sure I want to turn this into a habit considering it plays a large part in my job as a writer.
What are your experiences — if any — with subvocalization?