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AmWiser's avatar

When you are reading, do you hear words in your head?

Asked by AmWiser (14927points) May 27th, 2011

I like to read but on one hand I don’t think I’m a good reader, and on the other hand I don’t know what constitutes a good reader.

My sister, who reads a ton of books (fiction), says she hears the words when she reads and each character has a different voice. I read books sporadically and don’t hear the words, it’s more like I absorb the content (if that makes any sense).

So what say you? Do you hear words when reading? Do you just absorb the content? Or is there something else?

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32 Answers

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

Yes, I do. Which is probably why I will often be speaking with some sort of accent when I’m reading. I read a lot of books in which the characters are English or Scottish. Sometimes Irish. Drives my husband nuts.

Blackberry's avatar

Yeah, the voice is also what I think the author sounds like. When I’m reading Dawkins, I picture his accent reading to me, if don’t know the authors voice, I assign one to it.

Coloma's avatar

Yes, I’m with @WillWorkForChocolate

Infact, I tend to take on accents in real life too. Not all the time, but, us literary types love word play. :-)

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

@Coloma I do that too when we travel. I spoke with a Wisconsin accent for about two weeks after our trip, lol.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

I hear the words in my head. It’s probably why watching a movie based upon a book throws me off when hearing the accent of the characters.

Coloma's avatar


LOL I used to work in an import company and had a lot of clients in the south, I would find myself talkin’ with that southern twang all the time.

Stinley's avatar

I don’t read the words either, I just absorb the story too. Sometimes if the writer is very good at dialogue I will hear the accent – Marion Keyes is an Irish writer whose characters all have Irish lilts in my head. I read very fast and I wonder if that makes a difference. I am not very good at reading ‘slow’ books, where nothing much happens.

AmWiser's avatar

@Stinley, ummm! maybe the reading fast has something to do with it. I think if I tried to hear the words or assign voices like @Blackberry, I would never get through the book.:D

Seelix's avatar

Sometimes. Usually, though, I read too quickly to read each and every word. If I’m reading an author I love, I’ll often take my time and reread certain passages, in which case I do hear the words in my head.

Sunny2's avatar

Yes. Some people must hear the words or they can’t understand what they are reading. It slows your reading down. I got a speed reading course for my daughter and took it myself because I knew I was a slow reader. The first task was to hum and read. When I did that, the words on the page had no meaning at all. It was a very strange sensation. It’s a condition you just have to adapt to and allow more time for reading and less distraction when the reading is more difficult. However, knowing that both my daughter and I had this condition, we also learned that reading out loud helped our understanding of non fictional material. Fiction is easier because of the dialogue.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

It doesn’t always slow your reading down. I can read a Harry Potter book in about 3–5 hours, even with reading all the characters with voices.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

Yes, I create different voices for each character and think I hear them as I read. Pretty much each book starts off with a generic narrative voice, male or female and then alters as I read in more details. This is why sometimes when I see a movie adaptation, I’m disappointed the character isn’t as “good” as the one I made up in my head.

faye's avatar

I make a face for each character but I read too fast too, to read each word. If it’s a very good book, I slow down and try reading every word but I’m usually back to scanning in not too long.

sakura's avatar

It really annoys me when I start to read allowed in my head..when I am trying to read to relax/get too sleep…I prefer to get so absorbed that my reading just flows, if I start to hear the characters I get side tracked. But if I am reading in the back garden in the sun I don’t mind if the words start to form in my head and characters grow!

marinelife's avatar

It depends. Probably yes, but most of the time I’m not aware of it.

Hibernate's avatar

Yes and a distinct voice for each character too. There’s no point in reading and hearing the same voice for all .. it’s like a narrator .. at least for dialogues use some imagination.

flutherother's avatar

No, though I sometimes hear dialogue in my head.

ucme's avatar

Oh yes, absolutley I do. Quite a few posts on here I hear as characters from movies, cartoons mostly. It’s an interesting addition to an otherwise fairly monotonous experience.

SpatzieLover's avatar

Yes. And, I read quite quickly while “hearing” the words/characters in my head, as @WillWorkForChocolate mentioned above.

ddude1116's avatar

Usually, yeah. Depending on the book, and how into it I am. I read a lot when I can, but during school, I usually just watch movies because books require enough more attention that I don’t get into them before drifting into sleep, but when I have free time to read, I hear it, and often times stop to visualize what’s going on in the book as well.

downtide's avatar

Yes I do, and I definitely hear different voices for different characters. I also get a very clear visual image as well.

Plucky's avatar

Yes, I do. I hear the narrative (the voice is usually male in my head unless I know the author is female). I also hear the dialogue and different voices for the different characters.

Sunny2's avatar

I’m interested to hear that there are those who can hear the words, but quickly. I’m wondering if you live where people speak quickly, so you’re used to hearing fast talking. I’m not. I would like to read/hear faster. I think I do speed up sometimes, but usually the characters just aren’t speaking that fast to me.

Brian1946's avatar

No, because all the other voices in my head would drown out what I’m reading anyway.

Jeruba's avatar

Not really. I think they go straight to the place of comprehension without passing through a voice simulator. However, I do pause over words I don’t know or don’t know how to pronounce, and I work them out or else look them up so that I know how they should sound.

I’m a strongly visual person, though. So instead of hearing words as I read them, I see words as I’m hearing them. That’s the pathway to my place of comprehension. Ordinary speech typically turns into something visual as I hear it: I hear you speak, and it becomes print in my head, usually about 14 pt. Times Roman. I also recall heard speech as if I were reading it off a page in my mind.

Dulcie_Dunn's avatar

In my head I imagine each character differently, and that I am the narrator. Some may think this is a bit weird, but from some of the answers, it appers that people read in different ways.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

@Jeruba Wait… there are words you don’t know or don’t know how to pronounce? I am shocked and appalled, I tell you, shocked and appalled! =0)

Jeruba's avatar

Haha, @WillWorkForChocolate. Damn right there are. I can browse an ordinary dictionary and find tons of words I don’t know. As a matter of fact, I just finished reading The Mill on the Floss, by George Eliot (of Silas Marner fame), and this 1860 novel reminded me again of how much we’ve lost in relaxing the more rigorous educational standards of earlier generations. Quick—what does obloquy mean? Yes, I had forgotten too.

augustlan's avatar

Always, but in my own ‘head voice’ (similar to my real voice, but not quite the same), rather than in a character’s or author’s voice. I’m a quick reader, too, so it doesn’t slow me down. I don’t know if this has anything to do with it, but I always have an internal monologue going on in my head. As I’m typing this, I hear all of it at the same time.

I do pick up accents when around people who have them, though.

Plucky's avatar

@Jeruba When I audibly hear words, I see them spelt out inside my head too.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

@Jeruba Oh sure I know what obloquy means! It’s disgrace, brought about by public criticism or verbal abuse. I googled it, teehee.

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