Most speed reading courses are based on the fact that your mind works a great deal faster than your body. When you type some text at your computer, for example, are you aware of just how much faster your mind works than your fingers? Well, speed reading techniques are an attempt to deal with a similar issue.
Let me tell you about something called ‘sub-vocalization’. Many people have a slight movement of their tongue or throat as they read. They are silently ‘speaking’ the words they read – perhaps without even being aware of it. But the simple fact is that this action is physical, and that means that it works at a far slower speed than the mind is capable of. And so your reading speed is automatically limited, not to the speed at which the mind works, but to the far slower speed of your body.
Now, obviously what we need to do is to break this habit of sub-vocalization, and there are definite exercises that can help you to do this. One of these exercises is what I call ‘the chant’. This is the way it works… As you read, repeat a sound. It can be anything. How about ‘we, we, we’ or just about any other sound that you can repeat without thinking about it too much.
Now, it’s just about impossible to make that repetitive sound and sub-vocalize at the same time, and the result is that you will transfer the process of assimilating what you read from the physical to the mental. And this is exactly what the aim of the exercise it. If you do this exercise enough that processing the words becomes habitually a mental process, you will find that your reading speed more than doubles almost immediately.
This is a process of ‘unlearning’ inefficient reading habits, and replacing them with better ones. As you’re beginning to understand, speed reading is all about understanding how the mind works and using that knowledge to make reading the most efficient process possible.
There’s another reason to remove the habit of sub-vocalization. Because your mind is working at a far greater speed than your reading (when you sub-vocalize) much of your mind’s processing power is under-utilized. This means that the mind is easily distracted – you will find that your thoughts begin to wander, that while you’re reading the matter in hand, mentally you’re really thinking about something else. And this can result in you reading a word, a line, or even a paragraph twice over, or in reading a page and remembering almost nothing of it.
Then there are specific eye exercises so that your eyes move down the page more efficiently – instead of following the words down the lines, you will learn to move your eyes vertically down the page, taking in a line at a glance. Yes, it’s actually possible to do this, and this is because the English language contains a lot of redundant words, word that can be completely removed from a sentence while not at all affecting the sense of the sentence. Just take a look at this very paragraph that you’re reading. How many words could you remove and still understand it?
With these and many more techniques, speed reading software and courses build up your mental and physical skills to teach you to read in an entirely new manner, one that is far more aligned to the workings of your body and mind, and thus, faster and more efficient.