How does coding system influence reading speed?
Thread poster: Heinrich Pesch

Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 09:26
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
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Apr 26, 2016

I tried to find publications on the net but found only studies about schooling systems. I wonder if there is a superior coding system for understanding text and fast reading. If the same story is coded in different systems, like Chinese, Korean, Thai, Hindi, Georgian, Armenian, Arabian, Persian, Greek, Russian, Latin etc., how do native readers compare when reading their respective text.
Does anybody know?


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 08:26
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@Heinrich Apr 26, 2016

Heinrich Pesch wrote:
I tried to find publications on the net but found only studies about schooling systems.


The first hit on my first google search was an interesting blog post anyway:
http://persquaremile.com/2011/12/21/which-reads-faster-chinese-or-english/


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Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 11:56
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You mean script? Apr 26, 2016

As I understand it, you are referring to the scripts used to write languages, and you want to know which script is most efficient in terms of reading speed? Is that correct?

My feeling is that, like languages, for each person the script of his own language, is the most easy, and hence, the most efficient for reading purpose.

However, there is a catch to it. You need to be trained in the script of your language. Most people take it for granted that knowing a language also means knowing its script, but in reality, the link between script and language is tenous. Until recently, when mass public education became the norm, most people were illiterate (that is, they did not know the script in which their languages were written). This situation prevails largely for many modern societies even today, such as India, in which in large parts of its area literacy rates are still around 70% (with female literacy being even lower). This means about 30% of India's 1.25 billion people are still illiterate, that is they can't read or write. That makes a substantial portion of humanity.

Even with the literate, there is no guarantee that they would know the normal script in which their language is written. The case of Urdu in India is illustrative. In India Urdu is gradually being absorbed into Hindi, with which it is almost coterminus at the grammatical level. The absorption is more pronounced at the level of script, as in India the Perisian script is fighting a losing battle of existence, and Urdu is increasingly being written in the Devnagari script, which is the script used by Hindi and many other Indian languages like Marathi, Nepali, Konkani, etc. This has become necessary because the Urdu script is no longer being compulsorily taught in schools, and few among the younger generation know it, even when they speak Urdu at native level.

So knowing Urdu in their case does not necessarily mean that they also know the Urud script.

As far as reading efficiency is concerned, I am sure they would be quite efficient reading Urdu written in Devnagari, but that would be a pointless question as even if they were not efficient (and all sounds of Urdu can't be expressed in Devnagari correctly, so there is indeed some loss of phonetics when Urdu is written in Devnagari) there is hardly anything that they can do about it as they don't know the Urdu script.

An illustrative example is Bollywood which mostly uses Urdu, yet many of its actors (particularly actresses) come from a Westernized background where they have received most of their education through English or in some language other than Hindi/Urdu. For these actors, dialogues in Hindi are prepared in the roman script which they then read out in Urdu. Of course their diction is not perfect, but their other qualities such as good looks or glamour carry the day for them. Two excellent examples are Katrina Kaif, the reigning diva of Bollywood, who being a British citizen and having grown up in London, knows neither Hindi nor Urdu and reads out all her dialogues from romanized versions. Another example is the Canadian porn star who has recently entered Bollywood - Sunny Leone, who again barely speaks Hindi and has all her scripts prepared in roman script.

Even some prominet Indian politicians do it, for examples an important Congress leader of Italian orign.

So as I see it, the reading efficiency of a script depends on the skills of the reader, rather than on any inherent quality of the script itself. A competent native speaker would be able to read most efficiently in the most difficult script, provided it is his own and he is well-versed in its intricacies.

[Edited at 2016-04-26 07:13 GMT]


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Michael Wetzel  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 08:26
German to English
keep us posted Apr 26, 2016

I had a hard time understanding what you meant, but it's an interesting question.

Languages based on characters, strongly mixed languages (like Japanese?), languages with little grammatical differentiation like English, languages with some or many cases, languages with very irregular spelling like English or very regular spelling like French or German, fairly fixed or fairly variable sentence structure, words with more or fewer letters, more or less polysemy ...

There has to be a fair amount of research, you just have to figure out the right keywords to look for and find a very recent publication with a good bibliography. Some of the titles here might help, but they're a little old: https://en.wikiversity.org/wiki/Psycholinguistics/A_comparison_of_language_processing_in_Chinese_and_English


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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
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TOPIC STARTER
And how does print quality effect readability in different systems Apr 26, 2016

Perhaps those pictorial systems should be left aside for a while. Probably there is much study for English and Chinese, but what would interest me is how much a system tolerates deterioration before a text becomes unreadable. So it may be true that a native reader will read as fast as another one, but what if he has to read a poor fax copy? Somehow I believe some alphabets tolerate more than others, but Who knows? Perhaps a designer of text scanning software knows the answer.

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Shirley Lao  Identity Verified
Taiwan
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English to Chinese
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Eye Movement (or Saccade) Measures and the Perceptual Span Across Languages Apr 26, 2016

The notion of eye movements and saccades is important in the research on reading.

A saccade is a quick, simultaneous movement of both eyes between two or more phases of fixation in the same direction.
[Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saccade]


For details, please refer to Section 2.6: Eye Movement Measures Across Languages on Page 94.
http://pages.ucsd.edu/~eschotter/papers/Schotter_Rayner_2013_SubtitlesChapter.pdf


Similar to saccade metrics, measures of reading rate across languages are superficially different (when measured in terms of letters/characters) but in reality are very similar (when measured in terms of amount of information obtained in a given time).

Another important difference between orthographies is the direction in which the text is read. In general, the direction in which the print is read does not affect reading. For comparative studies of readers of different orthographies, all observed differences in reading speed were due to the more familiar orthography being read more easily than the less familiar one (Shen,; Sun et al., 1985).


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Shirley Lao  Identity Verified
Taiwan
Member (2007)
English to Chinese
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IReST - the tool for an evidence-based procedure Apr 26, 2016

The International Reading Speed Texts (IResT) consists of paragraphs of text (approx. 130 words per text) - according to the everyday life reading demands with the same difficulty, content and linguistic characteristics in the different languages. It consists of a set of ten equivalent texts in each language for repeated measurements and international studies and was already evaluated in 425 normal young subjects.
[Source: http://www.vision-research.eu/index.php?id=641]


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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 09:26
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
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Excellent Apr 26, 2016

Shirley Lao wrote:

The International Reading Speed Texts (IResT) consists of paragraphs of text (approx. 130 words per text) - according to the everyday life reading demands with the same difficulty, content and linguistic characteristics in the different languages. It consists of a set of ten equivalent texts in each language for repeated measurements and international studies and was already evaluated in 425 normal young subjects.
[Source: http://www.vision-research.eu/index.php?id=641]


Looks they do no comparison between the languages.


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Shirley Lao  Identity Verified
Taiwan
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English to Chinese
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Standardized Assessment of Reading Performance: The New International Reading Speed Texts IReST Apr 26, 2016

But this standardized instrument has been used to compare reading speed and performance across these 17 languages for both normal people and people with dyslexia and other physiological problems.

Standardized Assessment of Reading Performance: The New International Reading Speed Texts IReST
Source: http://iovs.arvojournals.org/article.aspx?articleid=2166061


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Christina Baier  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 08:26
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French to German
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depends also on redundancy Apr 27, 2016

@Heinrich: "what would interest me is how much a system tolerates deterioration before a text becomes unreadable"

I my opinion, this depends also on the redundancy of the grammar. An example: I speak, you speak, he speaks

In Swedish: Jag talar, du talar, han talar
(you have to look at the pronoun to know who is speaking)

In Spanish: hablo, hablas, habla
(you do not necessarily need the pronoun, the verb is indicating who is speaking)

In German: Ich spreche, du sprichst, er spricht
(both the verb and the pronoun are indicating who is speaking)

If a German text gets partly deteriorated and the “Ich” is not visible, you still know it’s “I speak” because of the verb form.

An interesting question: The German text will be a bit longer than the Spanish text, but perhaps easier to understand/ to read because of the redundancy ?


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