We have previously written about how, when learning a new language, it is crucial to speak out loud in addition reading from a textbook. We have always emphasized reading, and even singing, as good tools for improving one’s accent and for general practice of the language. However, reading material out loud can also be an effective strategy to remember things.
Reading Out Loud and Memory
The Production Effect
When we read, we are using our visual pathways to form memory links. We remember the material because it was something we saw. People who have photographic memory are extraordinarily good at making these kinds of memory connections. For those of us who do not have photographic memory, relying only on visual memory may leave us with many gaps, and so we have to find other ways to remember things. When reading out loud, we form auditory links in our memory pathways. We remember ourselves saying it out loud, and not only do we form visual links but also auditory links.
Art Markman, Ph.D. writes in his blog in Psychology Today about the production effect, which explains exactly why reading out loud causes us to remember better. Specifically referring to a study in which learners were given a list and asked to read half of it out loud and half of it silently, the learners were able to remember the part of the list they read out loud a lot better than the part of the list they read silently. He adds that while there are memory pathways of visually seeing the words and also the auditory pathways of hearing the words, there is also a memory link to the actual production of the word, hence the production effect. Especially if the word or content is different, it makes it easier to remember.
Connecting to What You Read
However, what you should remember is that simply reading your entire textbook before an exam will most probably do nothing for you. Why is this? This is because simply reading without categorizing, asking questions, and making connections does not do anything to organize the material in your mind. If you do not make connections, you do not have anything to anchor what you have read into your memory. Besides, wouldn’t you rather understand what you are reading rather than simply needing it for an exam and then forgetting it later?
Reading out loud while studying can be annoying, as it not only takes a longer time, but also has the possibility to make you look slightly deranged if you are muttering quietly to yourself in a library. However, it is another very effective strategy for remembering things. I think that I’ll risk looking like a lunatic so that I can remember better.
Another great way to learn better is to use Brainscape’s smart, adaptive-learning flashcards, which can help you learn a huge variety of subjects, from foreign languages to science, mathematics, and more. Check out all the Brainscape flashcard sets here.
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