Was Hellen Keller a SUPER Speed Reader?

This is a “Word from Udochi Wednesday” post.

Somehow, embedded in the nature of written and spoken languages is the implicit purpose of common consensus.

In other words: The only reason we speak and write is so that other people can know what we are thinking.

Knowing what others are thinking is advantageous to humanity, because it allows us to come into agreement on life experiences and how we should respond to them.

The downside is that we never truly know what each other is really thinking…even though we do.

Let me explain…

When we adopt a language (either from birth, or later in life through a more conscientious effort), what we are doing is adopting a way of thinking. Because English is my first language, and I am learning the mother tongue of my natively African parents later in life, the distinctions in the world views embedded in the two languages stands out to me.

I truly believe that if I had be raised with Igbo as my first language, I would experience the world differently.

I know that many things are lost in translations (with or without a language barrier). Two people can experience the exact same event and even discuss it using mutually agreed upon terms, yet still be emotionally and psychologically experiencing different things.

A White democrat and a Black republican may be discussing the phrase “systemic racism.” The two of them may come to the conclusion that “Systemic racism is bad,” and walk away thinking they are talking about the same things. However, their personal life histories and experiences most likely tell a different story.

My belief is that if we never spoke a word to one another, yet only experienced life together through the connectedness of emotional expression, well…we know how animals live so… However, my point is more about what is going on inside of our heads.

We may see rain falling from the sky, collecting into a puddle, and then the puddle disappears when the water evaporates into the air. As a result of our isolated psychological experiences, two people unable to communicate about their experiences would have even more divergent experiences.

One of them, may have experience with boiling water, and also may have made the observation that such a puddle sits longer in cold weather than in hot. As a result this person’s mental picture is that the hot ball of fire in the sky warmed up the water, and sent it away.

Meanwhile, the other person can not speak to the other person for correction about his own perceptions. So, based on his experiences with things that are hear one moment and gone the next, he comes to the conclusion that the water was taken away by someone or something.

Language helps us pass on information.

Writing is a form of passing on information using language expression via printed symbols. Various languages have their own writing systems.

What brought this topic to mind was the fact that as I was reading a document that was written in English with untranslated symbolic expressions sprinkled in, I found myself desiring a phonetic understanding of some of the symbols. It dawned on me quickly that I could understand the document even if the symbols were not translated through leveraging context clues.

I was then reminded that one of the keys to the skill of “speed reading” is to avoid saying the words out loud in your head. So, I wondered what this implied people who had no auditory understanding of symbolic expression.

The blind who read using brail still know what words sound like, so it is quite possible that they are sounding the words in their heads. However, I have seen the speed at which the blind run their fingers over a page in the process of consuming documents written in brail. So, I assume they are speed reading.

I have been told that two of the biggest hinderances to reading quickly are:

  1. The way in which our eyes scan the page, and
  2. Sounding each word out loud in our heads.

This got me thinking: someone who does neither could probably get through a lot of books extremely quickly! The only person I have ever known to be deaf and blind from near-infancy and still have the ability to read and write is historic woman named Hellen Keller.

So, I wonder if it were possible that she was a speed reader. Are blind people speed readers? Are deaf people speed readers?

If you have thoughts on any of this, please leave a comment. I would love to hear from you.

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