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Speed Reading Training

Since many years, I have had the pleasure of teaching speed reading techniques to multicultural groups of professionals.  Regularly, my participants are interpreters who must be able to read large amounts of texts in very little time in order to provide simultaneous interpretation.   This is challenging as the interpreters often get these documents at the last moment, without being experts in the subject matter.  I spent a short amount of time in one of the interpretation booths and could observe them at work.  The conditions are not great (lack of fresh air, natural light, of time,…) so I am grateful to provide them with some ways of making their jobs a little bit easier.

Rapid Reading for Interpreters

Isn’t it magical thinking?
Asked K., as I was showing
A way to improve the mood
In the interpretation booth
During the rapid reading training?

I don’t know. I am happy
That it seems to work for most.
Remember that stress is bad for retention
And it affects comprehension
So it is good to know how to release tension.

But tell us more about the art
Of reading fast and smart.

Our brain prefers the speed of thought.
Stretching the eyes therefore is a must
To get the speed of the travelling light.
After these exercises they hurt
We’d better do some palming
and blink a lot before they go on strike.

Reading is about the meaning of the text,
About the stories, about the experience,
About the author’s substance,
Much less about grammar and words.
Reading should transport you into their world.

Readers engage with the content.
They dialogue with the author.
They repeat in order to retrieve.
Once the skeleton of information appears,
They can flesh it up with facts, details, and anecdotes.

Reading is also about trust
That you can skip text and still get it.
That your brain can fill in the blanks,
Identify the patterns
And reorganize the information.

The rational mind does not like
This speed reading course very much.
Not knowing what it has read,
Relinquishing control.
This is not convincing at all!

And what is reading really?
I mean I read a poem differently
Than say a manual about biology
Even though both may speak
Of the human heart and its ailments.

Readers have their rights too
For instance to only read
What is relevant for them
At that moment, with that purpose.
They even have the right to start and to discard.

And if they want to read leisurely
For the single purpose of pleasure,
Allowing themselves to be moved
By the beauty and music of the word,
That is their executive right too.

All in all we have learned a lot today.
Reading is so much more than its mechanics:
The movements of the eyes or the finger that guides them.
For instance, it is key to adapt your reading to your objective,
To the text, to how much you know or how little.

We now know that our values about reading
May make it hard to read faster.
And that it may be useful to replace reading
With “finding and remembering information fast”
So that we get in a curious, active state of mind.

We even got some useful tips for learning:
To preview, view and review,
To speak about what we just read,
And to prime our brain for languages
Through speed reading of dictionaries.

What is now really cool
Is that we can always choose
How we want to do.
We can practice while reading the news
And help each other in the booth.

Dorothy Oger
Rapid Reading training for Interpreters
Borschette Conference Center Brussels,
25th and 26th of February 2016



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