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Quick Write 110711 "Subvocalization 2"

QW 1106 talked about “subvocalization”, the internal speech made when reading a word, thus allowing the reader to imagine the sound of the word as it is read (from Wikipedia). I was going to consider how to become able to read TOEIC Part 7 passages with or without subvocalization, but I decided to delve further into how I read those TOEIC Part 7 passages in today’s QW. In yesterday’s post, I said “I never subvocalize words in TOEIC passages”. After one-day reflection, I’ve come to think that I might be “subconsciously” subvocalizing each word in TOEIC passages, but the subvocalization is so rapid and automatic that I wouldn’t realize or become conscious that I’m doing so. I tried monitoring myself while reading five Part 7 passages to create a mid-term exam, and found that I almost never subvocalized words, at least, at my conscious level.

According to research findings, http://www.eigokyoikunews.com/columns/taishukan/2009/11/qa_1.html subvocalization is one of three steps to recognize each word. Step1) Look at a word and retrieve the word from one’s long-term memory, Step 2) Subvocalize the word, Step 3) Recall the meaning of the word. The three steps are called “decoding”. After decoding, a set of words is recognized as a meaningful chunk, a set of meaningful chunks is recognized as a meaningful sentence, a set of meaningful sentences is recognized as discourse. When the whole reading process is highly automatized and is conducted so rapidly and automatically, each process, subvocalization included, is barely recognized by the reader, I suspect.

The following is strictly my personal speculation, but let me share it with you. If vocabulary, sentence structure, or discourse development is hard to follow, the reader slows down the reading process and tries calling on, for instance, “conscious” subvocalization. But TOEIC passages rarely contain complex sentence structure or big words, and their discourse patterns are somewhat predictable, so they wouldn’t force experienced or trained test-takers to subvocalize words at conscious level. Of course, even those who’re experienced in taking the TOEIC test can be stuck in complex or tricky parts in the passages and need some more time for processing. Yes, I’d probably start subvocalization when I’m lost in a TOEIC passage. But for most of the cases, I can do without subvocalization in order to answer the questions. The purpose of reading TOEIC passages is strictly to identify the answer from multiple choices as economically as possible and this purpose determines the best way to process the language. (Continued)

(45 minutes / 411 words)

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Reference: 英語教育 2009年11月号(大修館)

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