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mungouk

Reading: out loud vs “mental sounding” vs reading for meaning only (beyond subvocalisation / subvocalization)

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mungouk

I’m not sure about wording here, but was interested in @889‘s mention of “mental sounding” over in this other thread, so here we go.

 

After 2+ years of studying I’ve only just got around to reading one of the graded readers I bought ages ago. (I’m out of the habit of reading fiction generally, but I’m on holiday and had a simple one sitting on my iPad, so finally had no excuses....)

 

In my lessons with my italki teacher I often read short dialogues and passages from the textbook out loud, which obviously helps my teacher to diagnose my pronunciation, and then my understanding when she asks me about the text.

 

However I’m now reflecting that reading “extensively” (not for gist) on my own, I can slip into one of three modes.

 

1. Reading out loud. It’s what I’ve been used to, but is obviously the slowest.  

 

2. Reading “out loud but in my head” (not sure what the linguistic terminology here would be, but same as @889 called “mental sounding” — you’re hearing it in your “mind’s ear”).  Quicker than actually vocalising.

 

3. Seeing a group of familiar characters and grasping the meaning quickly without thinking of the pronunciation.  Faster than 1 and 2, but see below.

 

#3 I find very interesting because I’ve never experienced this in language learning before.  (Although I’ve studied basic Japanese a bit, my level of Kanji was only very limited and most of my reading was in hiragana and katakana, in other words phonetic.). I find it difficult to tell by simple reflection whether I ever did this with other languages that don’t use ideographs.

 

So I think my question is: is #3 the thing to aspire to?  Somehow I wonder if by racing ahead to the meaning I might be short-circuiting some part of comprehension, or more likely mis-reading.  Having written this I’m beginning to think this is the way to go, but I’d be interested to hear what the language-learning theory has to say about this, and even what it’s called.

 

 

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roddy

Subvocalization might be a useful term to Google. I think some argue it should be eliminated as it slows you down. I suspect the better approach is to get so good at it it happens really really quickly.

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Shelley

When I read English I don't sub vocalize, not since I was about 5 years old have I done it. I am fluent in English so when I read I absorb the meaning in chunks, scanning the text, and understanding it.

I would say #3 is what I would aspire to.

 

This is also sort of the point of my decision to preserve the word order - more about that here https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/50055-preserving-word-order/?tab=comments#comment-383691

 

I am trying to read more like I do in English, no sub vocalising, no exact translating into english therefore not changing the word order and just reading it and understanding it.

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889

Even in English I find that my mind's voice is usually chattering away when I read, unless I'm skimming fast through the boring parts.

 

More so in Chinese of course. The closest I can come to turning the voice off is watching TV with subtitles (and the sound off). I'm so focused on understanding the text before it disappears that I seem to forget to sound it out: in English I see and comprehend an entire subtitle at a glance, but in Chinese my eye still has to work itself across the text.

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mungouk
1 hour ago, roddy said:

Subvocalization might be a useful term to Google.

 

Great, thanks — that helps a lot.  I've added it to the thread title.

 

I'm not entirely sure what I'm asking here, apart from maybe "what should be happening in my head during #3".  

I suspect I'm mixing up intensive and extensive reading a bit...  I'll do some searching and reading, but in the meantime further insights are very welcome!

 

 

 

 

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Flickserve

What is your objective with reading out loud?

 

Does reading correctly mean you speak better in conversation?

 

(I am just thinking of all those Chinese students who read English out loud and later on speak English like a book).

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mungouk
2 minutes ago, Flickserve said:

What is your objective with reading out loud?

 

Does reading correctly mean you speak better in conversation?

 

#StillThinkingOutLoudHere 🙂

 

I'm not particularly interested in reading out loud, I'm more concerned with what should be happening when I read something like a novel.

 

From what I've briefly read so far, since being directed towards "subvocalisation", maybe I shouldn't be too worried about doing it when reading "extensively", in other words for enjoyment and to improve reading skills. 

 

Whereas if I'm going to read rapidly for gist (for example, during the HSK 4 reading section) then I need to whizz through the text and grasp the meaning as quickly as possible. 

 

I'm starting to wonder if I'm creating a false dichotomy for myself here, regarding reading ideograms for meaning vs reading alphabetic or abugida-based text for meaning.  It just feels bloody weird to me at the moment!

 

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Publius

Yeah, it's a false dichotomy. Characters are not emojis. Chinese kids, who already speak the language, learn to read and write the same way other kids do -- by associating the sight with the sound. Subvocolization is inevitable. The best you can do is minimize muscle movement so you can read faster.

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mungouk
35 minutes ago, Publius said:

Chinese kids, who already speak the language, learn to read and write the same way other kids do -- by associating the sight with the sound.

 

Well, except in the case of Hanzi it’s possible to read something you don’t have a clue how to say, but you’re able to understand or infer its meaning. Which is a singularly odd experience to encounter later in life. 

 

 

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roddy

It's possible, but not desirable. Unless you're going the ivory-tower scholar route and have no need to vocalise to any degree. 

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Zbigniew
9 hours ago, mungouk said:

#3 I find very interesting because I’ve never experienced this in language learning before. 

It sounds like my experience may be the same as yours; in all the languages I've studied (including my mother tongue English) I've never experienced such an absolute untethering of phonology and meaning as I occasionally (if fleetingly) experience when reading Chinese. It's unsettling in its unfamiliarity.

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mungouk

@Zbigniew yes, thanks — I think this eloquently describes what I was struggling to explain.

 

I have, I now realise, been able to read other L2s in the past without subvocalisation (well, only French and German), but somehow with Chinese there's an unnerving quality to it — the "untethering" you mention.

 

 

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