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Quick Write 110611 “Subvocalization 1”

Have you ever heard of the term “subvocalization”? If you haven’t, you can infer its meaning by dividing the word into parts, like “sub + vocal+ -ize + tion”. “sub” means” a lower level”, “vocal” means “relating to the human voice”, “-ize” is a suffix for verbs, and “-tion” is a suffix for adjectives. Those four parts of the word consist the meaning of “a lower level-human voice- action”. Does it make sense to you? This is one way to expand your vocabulary. You try to come up with derivatives of a certain word, and learn three or four words at one time. Okay, I’ll go back to the main point for today’s QW piece. I read someone’s blog jumping from a retweeted link on Twitter, and found the term “subvocalize”. The author of the blog, a Japanese guy living in the U.S., mentioned that he cannot read English passages without subvocalization (From Wikipedia: the internal speech made when reading a word, thus allowing the reader to imagine the sound of the word as it is read). He knows it slows down the reading speed, but he needs to do so. (By the way, he’s lived in the U.S. for 12 years, and must be very proficient in English.) Then I reflected on how I read passages.

This is actually what I noticed five or six years ago. I used to have a habit of subvocalizing words while reading English passages, and it often bothered my comprehension and slowed down my reading fluency. So I decided to quit subvocalization, and I thought I quitted it successfully, but I didn’t. I occasionally subvocalize words when reading authentic passages or articles on newspaper/news magazine websites. Why? It’s probably because that I know subvocalization helps understand the content of the passages and I try seeking the assistance when reading the passages that contain complex sentence constructions or unfamiliar vocabulary. Do those arguments sound plausible to you?

To illustrate subvocalization a little more clearly, let me compare it with TOEIC Part 7 passage reading. I never subvocalize words in TOEIC passages. It’s probably because 1) The passages have patterns, and are predictable and manageable without subvocalization. 2) Vocabulary is simple, and sentence structures are not complicated, so there’s no need for the assistance of subvocalization. 3) I skim and look for facts and information in TOEIC passages. It's easier than reading authentic passages for abstract meaning, so there’s no need for the assistance of subvocalization. If all of these speculations are correct, it is likely that those who have trouble reading TOEIC Part 7 passages subvocalize the words in the passages for better comprehension, but subvocalization slows them down. How can they possibly become able to do without subvocalization to process TOEIC part 7 passages? How can they increase their reading speed or fluency even if they do subvocalization? I think Ondoku (read the passage aloud) practice can be the answer. It may sound weird that the training of reading the passage “aloud” can stop subvocalization. I’ll talk about it more in the sequel “Subvocalization 2” hopefully, in QW 1107.

(50 minutes /516 words)

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Aya

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