Silent Absorbtion vs. Aloud Recitation

When I read, whether I am confronted with an empty building or a busy suite, I always read quietly to myself. I’ve never thought about why I do this, it just has always come naturally to me. I think part of this is because I have a pretty vivid imagination, when I read to myself and am interrupted, I feel like my movie’s been paused, but when I’m interrupted from speaking aloud, I feel relieved. Reading aloud has always been a chore for me, it’s something that has always been required to do at some point in school, so I associate it with something that I have to do versus something that I’d like to do.

Due to this, I have a much different relationship with the spoken word than the written word. Since it’s tied to school in my head, it always comes with a feeling of self-consciousness, so much so, that as I am reading aloud, even if I am completely alone, I focus on how to say every word perfectly, make appropriate pauses at commas and periods, and even go back and redo parts that I got wrong. This, and the fact that this takes up so much brain power that I also can’t visualize what’s being said in the text, makes it so that I have a much weaker grasp at the concepts that are being talked about. Usually, it means that I have to go back over it and read it silently in my head to finally get it.

It might be true that, at least according to Borges, “for the ancients the written word was nothing more than a substitute for the spoken word” (Borges), but, in the modern age, particularly with fictional stories where the visual aspect is so important, written word is so much more. It’s essential for most people to be able to do this if they want to be able to read with any sort of frequency. The world today is much more populated and busy than the world in which these ‘ancients’ lived. The United States alone has reached over three hundred and twenty-seven million people. So in order to read a little of that book before work, or on the train home, or during a lunch break, one must learn to read silently or else risk disturbing others.

U.S. Population (in millions)

In this day and age, reading aloud is more ‘strange’ than reading silently. It often encroaches on others and is considered as more childish than anything, as if only a child would have to read aloud in order to understand text. But for me personally, I’ve gotten so used to keeping it inside, to mulling it over in my head before elaborating on it vocally, that to do anything else would be more than strange, it’d be outlandish.

2 thoughts on “Silent Absorbtion vs. Aloud Recitation”

  1. It’s funny to imagine sitting in a busy Starbucks, everyone sitting alone at little tables, reading out loud to themselves. You are right that reading out loud has become the ‘strange’ thing, and its strangeness no doubt has to do with the ways that we tend to relate to others on a daily basis in modern post-industrial society. We see more people every day, and we interact with them less. In this context, the risks of being “heard” are so much more grave than they were when St. Augustine made his snarky comment; it’s not that we’d need to answer for the text, or enter into a debate–we risk being told to be quiet, or worse maybe, we risk being ignored. Reading out loud has, ironically, become the “isolating” experience – not reading silently! Read out loud, and you might break the social contract of disturbing the people who are trying to sit in a public space and work! Reading silently, you can inhabit a space beside many strangers, though you may never speak.


  2. I like that you rolled with the absurdity of reading aloud in modern society. When looking at the graph I couldn’t help but think of the rate of how many more people I would creep out with each passing year by reading aloud in public. I can’t say I necessarily agree though; there have been times that I have enjoyed listening to others read in public as it is still a form of entertainment. I wouldn’t mind a few more public readers, though I definitely think there is a limit to the number there should be.


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