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Ask HN: Want to Learn Speed Reading. Where to Begin?
26 points by fingerprinter on Feb 6, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 16 comments
Hello -

I want to try speed reading but am not sure where to begin. I've seen others mention it in posts and am curious about programs, methods and results.


The easiest hack I've found is to inhibit subvocalization through just repeating "one, two, three" or any other phrase in your mind while reading.

The second "hack" is to try to make reading chunks as big as possible. Try not to focus on a single word.

The third trick is to minimize eye movement. Try reading the first line normally and the second line backwards.

Also guide with your finger to maintain speed. The tip of my index finger used to be all black after big reading assignments.

Having been around during speed reading's first vogue in the 1960s, I have to say that I think it overrated. To the extent that it works, I think that it is plain old skimming, which people hardly need to be taught. If you can read something at triple speed and comprehend as much, that text probably had a lot of padding.

You may start with this rather good and detailed overview of techniques: http://muflax.com/experiments/speedreading/

There are some resources mentioned in this post: http://howtolifeguide.com/post/16664436505/how-to-read

Richard Zorn made a book called Speed Reading. I believe it's out of print. But you can probably find it on Amazon. Small book. I read it in highschool. It works.

Read a book you've already read. Or a short story. Then read the short story again, but faster.

Another trick is to read extremely technical papers in a field you're not familiar with. This can help you to stop subvocalizing as well as teach better syntactic cue'ing like chunking via prepositions etc.

You just need to spend more time reading and your speed will increase naturally.

For example, I read a lot and it usually takes me no more than 2-3 hours to finish an average fiction book(about 0.5 mb in size) in my native language(I didn't received any training in speed reading)

Reading in word-groups has always been the key to reading faster. BUT, you have to concentrate on MEANINGFUL GROUPS. The secret is learning to see the ideas VISUALLY. If you concentrate on visualizing the ideas in meaningful groups of words at a time, the reading becomes more meaningful, more like WATCHING a movie than LISTENING to a story. And verbalization will fade away on its own. I could describe this better, but I'm typing this on my little Kindle screen. But just search on "Reading Thought-Units" at Amazon for some really great new info on this subject.

Would you please not use uppercase for emphasis? http://ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html

one question to see ideals visually. how? I need some examples

smallhands, thanks for asking that. First, here's the book I was referring to earlier: http://www.amazon.com/Reading-Thought-Units-ebook/dp/B005GVL... It's a new method, which makes it very easy to practice doing what reading improvement instructors have been recommending for over 100 years -- that is, reading groups of words at a time.

The short answer is, visualizing ideas is actually 'thinking' more about what you read. Meaningful word-groups form ideas which you can visualized at just one glance.

The longer answer is… Visualizing ideas is forming a mental picture or concept. A picture of course is simply imagining a thing or an action. A concept would be more like imagining an attribute or a description.

For example, look at this line from Alice in Wonderland: "The rabbit-hole went straight on like a tunnel for some way".

This could be considered as 4 ideas, or 'thought-units':

The rabbit-hole

went straight on

like a tunnel

for some way.

You would look at the phrase, "The rabbit-hole" and imagine a rabbit-hole. And this doesn't have to be a very exact or detailed picture, but just the act of picturing it forces you to use the visual part of your mind rather than the verbal part. This makes what you read more meaningful and therefore improves your comprehension. It's only by improving comprehension that you can ever read faster. I mean, if you aren't comprehending something, you aren't really reading it, are you? You're just sounding out words.

The next phrase, "went straight on" is an action, but also more of a concept. You would imagine the concept of something going straight.

This idea of concepts is a bit harder to explain. It's just thinking about what something really 'is'. One exercise which helps understand 'conceptualizing' is to try to look at things, and understand what they are, but without naming them. This can be surprisingly tricky to do because we are so used to naming things. But try to look around you, and think about what things 'are'… without thinking of their names. What's left in your mind when you don't say words, is the 'concept'. It's getting this 'idea' or message across which is the goal and purpose of language. The sounds or text are just the messengers.

Anyway, likewise with the next two phrases. "like a tunnel" can be imagined as a tunnel or the concept of 'tunnelness'. And "for some way" is another concept. You imagine the concept of something being of a considerable distance.

The idea of reading in word-groups has been around since 1879, when it was discovered that this is how fast readers read. Instructors began teaching exercises for students to try to increase their 'eye span', but really what was needed was to 'understand' more words at a time, not just 'see' more words.

The key to understanding groups of words at a time, is to take 'meaningful' groups, which form whole ideas. And the key to reading groups of words, is to visualize the ideas. This is because you can't really 'say' multiple words at the same time, but you can 'see' one whole idea at a time.

If you think this sounds hard to do or strange, then think of how we read compound words as single ideas all the time. We think of cupcake as one idea, not as 'cup' and 'cake'.

That's all this is, reading a group of words as the one idea they represent together. Fast readers have always done this. In fact they often describe how they read as "reading in pictures".

Sorry for such a long answer, but I hope it's been helpful.

Eyercize is a very interesting resource to get started - http://www.eyercize.com/

Try scrolling down a web page very quickly and see if you can glean some info from it.

Axiom: The faster you (force yourself to) read, the faster you will be able to read (and comprehend).

This is just something I have found to be true, and doesnt come backed by all of the speed reading research (or marketing). As far as I know it to be you just need to read faster and stop trying to understand every single word and sentence. Don't try to grok every word just keep reading. The next piece of reading you do will happen that much faster (and faster, and faster). And when you come to something you do need to read and consciously comprehend every word, you'll be able to do that even faster than you could before.

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