A Fast Way to Read for Meaning

Ancient Chinese Calligraphy

Words combined artistically are pleasing when spoken aloud just like they are when spoken silently to yourself. But, if you’re reading to learn or you want to experience a novel rapidly, pronouncing words internally can really slow you down.

Western writing is made by assorting strings of words made up of a certain combination of 26 letters and punctuation marks into lines of text. When you look at eastern writing, like Chinese calligraphy, it would seem that the symbol came before the spoken word whereas with western writing, using the Latin alphabet, the opposite is true. Each one of our characters represents a sound we can make with our voices, and if we were to encounter a new word written down, though we don’t know it’s meaning, if we know the alphabet we could speak it (more or less) by sounding it out. While this is useful for picking up a language quickly, it lends itself to saying words in your mind, when reading, which wastes time.

If you train your mind to recognize words and phrases as symbols representing ideas instead of phonetic sounds, you can glance at a word or phrase, assess it’s meaning, and move onto the next in an instant rather than staring at words until you finish saying them in your head. This may require you to think faster than your used to, but probably not faster than you’re able to. Use the time you normally waste slowly discovering the meaning of a sentence to reflect on it’s meaning after having read it and you’ll gain more knowledge and understanding from your study.

Next time you read a piece of writing, try to avoid pronouncing a single word in your head and simply allow the words to flow, like a stream of precise meaning, seamlessly into your mind without mentally practicing what your mouth muscles and vocal chords must do to speak them. Focus on the thoughts and ideas. If you can do this, reading becomes like downloading information directly into your brain instead of having a slow conversation. This technique also prevents you from scanning lines of a paragraph without retaining any information and thinking you’ve read it, which, of course, isn’t reading.

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