Most People Suck at Reading Aloud

I often think back to the days of elementary school. In the early years I recall that the class was split up into separate reading groups. I would always end up reading a real paperback book while other kids read Spot, Clifford or the Berenstain Bears. In 4th grade they gave the entire class the same book. I was able to read it out aloud with no challenge whatsoever. Most other kids would stumble over every third word. It was very irritating to say the least. Recently, due to the advent of podcasting, this irritation has made a triumphant return.

I am a co-host of one podcast and a listener of many. Often I will write e-mails to other podcasters who occasionally decide to read those e-mails on the air. Much to my dismay, they often stumble over those messages in a similar fashion to that of my elementary school classmates.

The most recent example of this occurred on episode Alpha 61 of The Dragon’s Landing Inn. I sent Chuck and Lonnie an e-mail with a small bit of role-playing advice, and they were nice enough to read it on the show. They even played our promo without us asking for it, so I don’t want anyone to say I called them dummies. They’re two very smart guys who have plenty of interesting things to say. If I didn’t think so, I probably wouldn’t listen to their podcast or send them e-mails. But at the same time, I guess that’s what makes this more disappointing. Even smart people with awesome podcasts have trouble reading my e-mails aloud.

I would normally immediately blame this problem on my writing, but I am not alone in this predicament. My co-host and house-mate Rym also has this problem. He has also expressed dismay in that whenever others read his writings aloud, they stumble over every other sentence. Here’s the trick. I can read his writings aloud perfectly, and he can also read mine. You could blame it on writing style, but our writings are very dissimilar.

So what am I trying to say here? I’m not quite sure. All I know is that many people have trouble taking text from a page and reading it aloud with perfect fluidity. This makes me sad. Let’s do a test. Take this blog posting and try to read it aloud. You must speak using conversational pace and tone. See how many times you hit a speed bump. See how many times you have to re-read sentences before you can recite them fluidly. Try doing this with articles from the newspaper or other websites as well. Now do it cold. Read an article aloud that you have never seen before. I get the feeling that reading aloud is a skill which is not emphasized enough in our society. Maybe if more people realize they lack this essential and basic skill, they will build upon it and exercise it more often.

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4 Responses to Most People Suck at Reading Aloud

  1. Chuck says:

    This is Chuck, reader of the email in question on Dragon’s Landing. I just have to say, in my defense, I stumble over most things I say whether I am reading or not. So yeah, if you put a 6 paragraph long email in front of me, I will stumble over a few words here and there.

    However, your post above makes it sound like I stammered over every word and every line. I may have stumbled a half dozen times, and most of them were pretty small (like pauses a fraction of a second longer than they should have been). If you can do cold readings of books and letters without tripping up at all, I’m envious. And I should be envious. I was a Theatre Major in college with about a dozen classes in acting and vocal interpretation under my belt.

    I don’t want this to come across sounding bitchy. I’ve been hoe sick for 2 days and I mey not be thinking quite as straight as I should. But I just felt that comparing my reading of your letter to the way an elementary school child reads and stumbles “over every third word” was a little unfair.

  2. Apreche says:

    See, I was worried you or someone else would see this and think that way. There were actually 2 or 3 podcasts in which this happened, and yours just happened to be the freshest in my mind. I had to use someone as an example, and I think I fairly devoted an entire paragraph to making sure you didn’t feel like I was picking on you.

    There are some other non-podcast incidents of this lately as well. For example, someone recently tried to read some board game rules aloud and failed miserably.

    So yeah, sorry you just kind of drew the short straw that inspired me to write a blog post. Your estimation of your stammering quantities is pretty much spot-on, and anyone can listen to the podcast and judge for themselves. In fact, I encourage them to do so ;) I also kind of have high standards, and expect perfect reading. Even if you had only messed up one word, I might have done the same blog post.

    Hope you get well soon, can’t wait for your next show.

  3. Chuck says:

    That’s cool, and I was pretty sure that I came across as more defensive than I intended to. There was a time that I would have edited the podcast to the point that it would have come across sounding as if I had read it perfectly. However, after out podcasts started stretching to 1 1/2 to 2 hours and editing usually took 2-3 times as long as the recording, I finally decided that it was OK to leave some of the “ums” and “ers” in.

    As to why it is so hard to read aloud, I have no idea. I read to my daughter every night, and often I am reading a book that I have read to her dozens of times. I still stumble over the occasional sentence. And I really do envy you the ability to read without error. I think it might have to do with not sight reading ahead of where I am at. I think I stammer sometimes when I am talking for much the same reason — my mouth is moving faster than my brain. :)

  4. Apreche says:

    Hey, that’s pretty interesting. Maybe it does have something to do with the speed of reading. I can read pretty fast, considering most of what I do is read. Having a verbal discussion is actually a much less efficient means of communication for me, compared to typing and reading. This definitely requires further investigation.

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