Your Hidden Voice

Everyone's reading—except for those expert in the special Evelyn Wood learning skills—involves two dominant characteristics:

1. The reading is accompanied by a "hidden voice," a tendency to pronounce the printed words silently or even to speak them in a barely audible murmur.

2. The reading is executed from left to right across the page, line by line, until the page is finished. Then, the student moves through subsequent pages using the same line-by-line approach.

Reading that displays these characteristics is sometimes referred to as "subvocal linear" reading, because the words read are sounded in the head ("under the voice") and are read horizontally, line after line.

Observers have documented the subvocal quality of most reading, by interviewing people about what goes on in their minds as they read, and by monitoring the vocal cords during reading. Often, a vibration can actually be detected in the bands of tissue in the larynx as someone reads.

The "linear" feature of most reading becomes evident if you just watch the reader's eyes. The dominant movement of the eyes is almost always the same: left to right, back and forth across the page.

Ultimately, your goal will be to move beyond subvocal linear reading to another approach—what's called the visual-vertical technique. In brief, this kind of reading involves, first, eliminating the silent sounding of the words and replacing it with an exclusively visual perception. Second, it's characterized by a dominant sweep of the eyes vertically down the page, rather than by the usual horizontal, left-to-right movement.

Much of the remainder of this book will be devoted to showing in detail how you can develop the skills that will enable you to become a visual-vertical reader. But for now, just be concerned with the first step—becoming a proficient subvocal linear reader. After you master that skill, you will be in a position to tackle the visual-vertical approach.

Before we go on, let's address a basic question that may have already occurred to you: Once you learn the visual-vertical skill, will you ever have any further use for subvocal linear reading? Or should your goal be to avoid it completely?

Actually, there are a number of ongoing uses for efficient subvocal linear reading, even for those who are experts in the visual-vertical method. Here are some of them:

• Poetry. Many times, it's most satisfying to savor the language and rhythms of poems subvocally, rather than to experience them only visually. In fact, it may be best to read the poem out loud, to get the full impact of the writer's genius.

• Dense textbook material. If you find you don't have a good grasp of the vocabulary in a particular book or article, you may have to slow down and read line by line to get the full meaning. Concentrated scientific or other technical writing may require analysis and thought as you read—and, therefore, a slower pace.

(On the other hand, there are many situations in which even the most difficult material is best read quickly, with a visual-vertical approach. For example, it may be helpful first to get an overview of difficult material by reading quickly, and then to return to the hardest passages with a subvocal linear technique.)

• Double-checking. You may have failed to understand something the author has said. Or you may feel the author made a particularly telling point, or came up with an especially compelling turn of phrase, which bears further scrutiny or meditation.

In such situations, you'll probably want to return to the section in question and linger over it for a few moments. Most of this type of double-checking or retracing will be done with the subvocal linear approach.

• Jokes. To appreciate jokes in a book or magazine—or any other disconnected short anecdotes or aphorisms—it's usually necessary to subvocalize. There's almost no way to get a visual-vertical rhythm going when there's no continuity from one little story or point to the next.

• Dialogue. Those who are adept at visual-vertical reading can whip through most novels or plays in record time. But many times, the sensitive, intelligent reader will want to slow down and hear the words exchanged between characters. Or he may want to savor a scene.

I recall a confession of sorts by one of the fastest readers I know, Dan Warner, one of our Evelyn Wood teachers. Dan can read many thousands of words a minute, and has frequently demonstrated his skill before audiences in public lectures and on television.

But he also has found a place for subvocal linear reading. For example, he loved reading the Dune series of fantasy-science-fiction books by novelist Frank Herbert. With these and other absorbing novels, he'll frequently slow down to about 800-900 words per minute in the last chapter or so to relish the final climax and disposition of the plot-and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. This sort of indulgence is perfectly acceptable for a stu dent or anyone else, and will probably enhance one's understanding and enjoyment of many books.

On the other hand, it's a mistake to believe that most books can be enjoyed best at a slower pace. In fact, the emotional impact or intellectual understanding of most passages becomes much stronger with the faster visual-vertical approach. Recall the impression made on the student reading the book about Hiroshima, as described in the opening chapter.

In the last analysis, of course, selecting between these two approaches is a judgment call you must make for yourself. A rule of thumb I've found helpful is this: If for some reason, the sound of the words seems particularly important, then it's probably a good idea to revert to the subvocal approach. But if your main objective is to absorb the meaning of the passage as effectively as possible, the visual-vertical approach will be more appropriate.

Practical Mental Influence

Practical Mental Influence

Unlock the Powers of Mental Concentration to Influence Other People and to Change Situations. Learn How to mold the mind one-pointed, until you have focused and directed a mighty degree of Mental Influence toward the desired object.

Get My Free Ebook


Post a comment