Talk about what you read – to remember – Spd Rdng Technique number 19
Summary: Talking about what you read helps crystallise your understandings in your mind – which is the first step to remembering. Do it twice:
1) as you read, summarise the information to yourself – it keeps you actively engaged.
2) after reading, tell someone what you’ve read – it helps you understand and remember it better.
Although reading is traditionally viewed as a passive activity, it is important to engage with the material if you want to learn and remember things from it. Verbalising is an important part of clarifying, consolidating and retaining information you read.
Research is now backing up what we’ve been teaching for over 14 years
Canadian researchers (Alexis Lafleur and Victor Boucher)suggest that those who talk to themselves or others may have better memories than those who don’t. So if you want to remember something talk to yourself our loud or share it with others. Professor Victor Boucher of the University of Montreal in Quebec states that by increasing the number of aspects to the information (i.e. the effort of talking and moving lips) we make it more memorable. This links to the speed reading technique number 16 (remember by doing something) which states that the more things you do to remember information the more likely you will recall it later. The research paper (The ecology of self-monitoring effects on memory of verbal productions: Does speaking to someone make a difference?) published in the Journal of Consciousness and Cognition states: “The simple fact of articulating without making a sound creates a sensorimotor link that increases our ability to remember, but if it is related to the functionality of speech, we remember even more. The added effect of talking to someone shows that in addition to the sensorimotor aspects related to verbal expression, the brain refers to the multisensory information associated with the communication episode.”
Talk to yourself as you read
We’re assuming that you’re marking the book as you go along and/or taking notes (speed reading technique number 17) – both techniques which help you engage with the material, help you crystallise ideas in your mind and therefore help you fix them in your memory. Another way to read actively and critically is to comment (internally or aloud) on what you’re reading as you go along, eg “OK, so the words are saying … but the underlying meaning is … and the author is clearly on the side of ….”. Alternatively you can ask questions about what you’re reading:
- Is this important to me and my purpose? (if not, move on)
- Do I already know this? (if so, move on)
- Is there anything else which is not here? (in which case, where can I find it?)
Questions can also help clarify or amend your purpose (speed reading technique number 4) – which in some cases you will do as you go along.
Subvocalising / vocalising
Talking to yourself as you read has the added benefit of stopping you from subvocalising. Mentally saying or mouthing the words to yourself as you read can slow you down to the speed of speaking (average 70-240wpm in English – it may vary slightly in other languages) when you’re reading for information. Subvocalising (or even vocalising, saying the words out loud) is a throw-back to when we first learnt to read. Many books on speed reading make a big deal about subvocalising, but it isn’t a bad thing in itself – most of us do it some of the time. Sometimes you need to say the words aloud to check the pronunciation, or to make sense of something complicated. But subvocalising limits you to reading word by word, when you should be reading chunks of text at one time in order to speed up (see Read the message: speed reading technique number 6 and Take fewer stops: speed reading technique number 8). As a first step, practise just saying the key words to yourself rather than the whole sentence (so for this last sentence you might say: ‘first – say key words not whole sentence’). You might also use this habit productively by saying more important words and phrases more loudly. Then try speaking about what you’re reading (making mental notes such as ‘this bit’s just another example’ or ‘this isn’t important’ or ‘key words not whole sentence’) which means that you can’t read the words aloud to yourself and therefore it allows you to speed up. As you speed up, you’ll find it easy to get out of the habit of saying the words to yourself as you read because you won’t have time. It’s the opposite of a vicious circle – a virtuous spiral.
Talk to someone else
As well as talking to yourself while you read, talk to someone else after you’ve been reading. When you have finished a book and taken out the information you need, talking about what you have read will help you ‘fix’ the ideas in your mind so that you remember them.
If possible, share what you’ve read with an interested friend – preferably by telling them, although emailing, blogging and twittering also work (and provide you with a written copy you can refer to later). If you’re short of (interested) friends then say the words out loud to yourself.
After talking about what they’ve read, many people find that they have achieved much more of their purpose than they initially thought when they first stopped reading.
EXPERT TIP Talking about and sharing information helps you learn it better and remember better.
Memory tips suggested by cognitive psychologists over the years include: circling one’s arms, chewing gum, drinking water and representing what we need to remember as a silly drawing.
Read all speed reading techniques in Spd Rdng – The Speed Reading Bible