The Benefits of Reading Out Loud

Many people have told me that reading books is good. Well, I kind of agree with that statement. However, when I say that I “kind of” agree, it means that reading should be something we do because we enjoy it, that we find ourselves some book, any book and that reading will make us come back for more.

In an ideal world that would be the case. In an ideal world, we would have the time to read as many books as we possibly can. Do we have the time? Let me rephrase that: Do I have the time? Not as much as I did when I became an adult and started working full-time and sometimes more.

Don’t get me wrong. I do read a lot. Do I read for pleasure? Not really. I used to, though, not anymore. I have to read a lot of material. New grammar books, new text files, and students’ papers. By the time I finish all this material, I barely have time for myself. 

Where am I going with all this? Strangely enough, it was not until recently that I had to do my own audio tracks for the books I was reading with my students when I started reading out loud for the first time in my life. I guess that when we think about it, we think that we have read books out loud our whole lives. But have we? Have we read books out loud? I have read some passages and some papers, and of course, I have read the occasional speech, I have even read my flashcards when I’m presenting something. 

Seriously, though. I don’t remember my reading out loud an entire book. Granted, I don’t have children, so I have never done the whole “read me a bedtime story” thing late at night so my kids can finally call it a night, but I digress. 

So, getting back on track: I recorded my audios for my classes, and by doing that I concluded that my reading voice was pretty bad. There were some times where I couldn’t even understand myself. That was kind of disappointing. And the reason for this is that we never hear our own voices coming from a recording device. We always listen from within.

Neel Bhatt, an assistant professor of otolaryngology at the University of Washington, explained that “the dislike of the sound of our own voices is physiological and psychological. First off, audio recordings translate differently to your brain than the sound you are used to when speaking. The sound from an audio device goes through the air and then in your ear (also known as air conduction)”.

I understand that we don’t like our voices, or that we are not used to listening to our voices. That’s not really my point. My point is that I thought I was an “expert reader”, and I always felt very confident about myself to the point that I would never question my own self.

Please don't misunderstand me. I know how to use a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) to my advantage. It was only at editing my tracks when I started to realize that some words sounded very similar but they shouldn’t have. Some other times I noticed that some words were almost non-existent. And the worst part was that some words just sounded too “international” for my taste. 

So, I saw myself repeating several words and many sentences until I was relatively happy with the results. I know “practice makes perfect”, I just didn’t know I had to practice that part myself. 

Time has passed now, and I want to believe I have improved exponentially. I started by checking the correct pronunciation from several online dictionaries which have audio. Then I compared “my version” to the “right version” and I mimicked what I would think was the proper pronunciation. Then I checked all my grammar books and did another comparison. Once more, I checked some of my pronunciation books to triple-check.

Once I saw myself recording my audio tracks, I would record several takes until I was happy with one. I know what you are going to say: many voice professionals record several takes, and yes, there’s some truth behind that statement. However, my point is that I wanted to feel more confident about my reading without having to resort to more attempts than necessary. 

In conclusion, I have read many articles about the benefits of reading out loud, but I never experienced them firsthand. Results may vary from person to person. My results are as follows: 

1. I have “polished” a lot of “D”, “T” and “əd” endings.

2. The “TH” sounds much better now. Words like “dad’ and “that” used to give me a hard time. 

I have struggled with speaking English as a second language. I am an English teacher who learned the language the hard way (self-taught), and I continue to improve every day. For example, separating “did” from “not” is somehow “weird'' in my mouth. It comes out too nasally. And this problem comes back to the “D” and “T” sound again. 

I wanted to feel that I was ‘ready ' whenever I was required to read something right there on the spot, and now, for the first time in my life, I feel that I am getting there. It is still a work in progress, but I know that I will improve since I have to keep on reading and making my audio tracks.

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