Speed reading at the hands of outstanding school education?

The Scandinavians are not only outstanding with respect to reading comprehension. The school system, in comparison to Germany, aims at deducing facts. Teacher-centred teaching, a common practice that is only slowly going out of fashion in Germany, encourages students to let the content wash over them. This an impediment to reading comprehension since the brain switches off at some point and stops taking in information. Apart from school education, the Scandinavians’ speed reading is also related to cultural factors. Literature for instance has a different level of significance: Once Germany was the land of thinkers and poets; poetry and the written word were vital in culture and school. With the hegemony of the Prussians, however, more attention was directed to engineering. The written word was relegated by numbers, the teaching of German faded into the background.

Cultural factors

Aside from an interest in the poetry of the native country, mass entertainment plays a major role in terms of reading comprehension. Those who have watched TV in Finland or Sweden will have noticed with delight that many programmes are broadcasted in the original English soundtrack. This does not only have the effect that children learn English at an early age: films are dubbed in the local language. So it is necessary to read in order to understand. This affects the reading technique to the benefit of speed reading.

Scandinavian TV and the brain

The combination of subtitles, a foreign language and the moving picture has the effect that the brain concentrates on at least three different things in order to get an idea. How does this benefit speed reading? When we read in a normal way, we form words in our heads as if we were reading things out to ourselves. This probably arises from the effects of teacher-centred teaching: In school, the teacher presents and we read along and listen. Scandinavians loose this “reading to oneself” and that is an important requirement for speed reading. Words create a picture in the subconscious. The connection is made subconsciously and disconnects from linear understanding. Similar to what happens when speed reading is taught, the view is widened. At the beginning, the brain is capable of capturing multiple words at the same time; after some training, multiple lines can be read. This sounds too complicated? It is not. Although the brain does not capture the content linearly (word by word), it is capable of creating coherence and meaning. The same effect can be seen when looking at individual words: If the letters are turned around, the brain can still recognise the word correctly. Learning progresses and speed reading is getting more and more effective.


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Göran Askeljung

Director of immediate effects Ltd.
Owner and Author of BrainRead

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