Reading level: which is more important to you – speed or accuracy?

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Reading level: which is more important to you – speed or accuracy?

Speed (words per minute)
2
4%
Accuracy (% of know words)
26
57%
They are both important
14
30%
Neither are important
3
7%
Other
1
2%
 
Total votes: 46

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leosmith
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Reading level: which is more important to you – speed or accuracy?

Postby leosmith » Wed Nov 23, 2022 1:53 pm

I am doing a really hard spurt in Mandarin reading right now. My original goal was to get to a much high percentage of known words. But I recently stumbled upon a post in Chinese forums regarding reading speed, which made me decide I need to take that into account too when considering reading level.
If I recall correctly, people normally talk about accuracy when they discuss reading level on this forum. Isn’t speed also an important metric?
Regarding my Mandarin, I started the spurt with only 65% known words on the average for the stuff I’m reading. Two things to note here: 1) I’m using the Language Crush reading tool, which keeps stats, in case you are wondering how I know, and 2) the 65% is a unique word stat; I think most people here use a total word stat when talking about accuracy; 65% unique converts to roughly 85% total words. You can see the material is well over my head, but it’s not unsurmountable with the reading tool. I have been at it for 76 days now, averaging 2-3 hours/day, and my known words have gone from 65% to 78%. I expect to reach my goal of over 90% in 60 days, when I finish the course.
I’ve only taken a few measurements for speed. I have gone from about 1/4 to 1/3 native speed. My goal is ½ native speed. I read out loud, making sure to pronounce correctly, so I compare my speed with the speed of native speech.
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Re: Reading level: which is more important to you – speed or accuracy?

Postby Lianne » Wed Nov 23, 2022 2:11 pm

For me, accuracy. Maybe because I'm a slow reader even in English. :lol: Not a weak reader, mind you! I can read pretty well anything written for the layperson. But I am not fast, because I say every word in my head as I read.

I'd be happy if I could get my French reading up to almost my English reading speed, which would still be on the slow side, but that's fine if the accuracy is there.
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Re: Reading level: which is more important to you – speed or accuracy?

Postby gsbod » Wed Nov 23, 2022 2:12 pm

I wish I could say speed. Simply because the ratio of good books to time available for reading is far too great. But I'm just not a fast reader (despite being an intelligent one!) Even in my native language, I find myself naturally sacrificing speed for accuracy. It's just the way my brain works!

(I voted for both)
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Re: Reading level: which is more important to you – speed or accuracy?

Postby Le Baron » Wed Nov 23, 2022 2:40 pm

I actually think speed is fairly important for motivation over the long term, since there's no happiness in toiling over 1.5 pages in 3 hours. However skim reading where you're passing over several pages and only getting the gist is false economy. So I chose accuracy.
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Re: Reading level: which is more important to you – speed or accuracy?

Postby ryanheise » Wed Nov 23, 2022 3:45 pm

leosmith wrote:My original goal was to get to a much high percentage of known words. [...] I think most people here use a total word stat when talking about accuracy;


If you define accuracy as the percentage of known words, then my answer is a bit trivial:

  • If I know all of the words, then speed is all that remains to be important.
  • If I don't know many of the words, then knowing more words will also improve my speed, and hence it must be more important.
  • If my known words is somewhere in between, then the importance of these things is also somewhere in between.
But to me, accuracy is not simply how many words you know, but is instead related to how many words you processed correctly during reading. That accounts for skim reading, and other types of reading where you may choose to skip over processing some words even though you may know them. It also accounts for reading errors where you had the best intentions to read text accurately but failed to do so.

With this definition, my answer is a bit different:

  • If I'm in the mode of learning new words and grammar, then accuracy is more important.
  • If I'm reading a story for recreation and I can't wait to find out what happens next, speed might be more important.
  • If I'm reading to find information and I need to find the information quickly, speed might be more important.
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Re: Reading level: which is more important to you – speed or accuracy?

Postby SCMT » Wed Nov 23, 2022 4:19 pm

I clicked "neither" because it is a ridiculously awesome answer.
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Re: Reading level: which is more important to you – speed or accuracy?

Postby badger » Wed Nov 23, 2022 4:58 pm

SCMT wrote:I clicked "neither" because it is a ridiculously awesome answer.

I can read every language in the world, so long as neither speed nor accuracy are important. :D
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Re: Reading level: which is more important to you – speed or accuracy?

Postby Spaceman » Wed Nov 23, 2022 5:25 pm

I have always been a fairly leisurely reader in any language. I honestly hate the end of suspenseful books when you're rushing through to find out what happens, I much more prefer reading slowly and savoring.

My kindle gives some sort of reading speed estimate, I've never looked too much into how accurate it is, but I do keep track of it in my Spanish reading journey. It ranges from anywhere in the 90 wpm range for "literature" to 150 wpm for YA stuff, with adult contemporary fiction being at about 115 wpm right now. It basically lines up perfectly with the % of words recognized for the respective book types.

All these numbers have slowly ticked up over time, though honestly not as quickly as I would have expected. Hard to say exactly since I'm reading different books as I move up, but I'd guess I'm reading ~15% faster than I was 6 months ago, having read about 750k words in that time.

One thing I've noticed though is that I vary the number of words I look up quite a bit depending on the difficulty. My theory is that reading too slowly is annoying, so I will tolerate some ambiguity to allow myself to read a bit faster. If I'm reading fast enough to not be annoyed then I will look up more words, puzzle out more strange grammar, and slow myself down to understand everything. So my reading speed hadn't increased that much because I focus more on understanding as I get faster at processing.
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Re: Reading level: which is more important to you – speed or accuracy?

Postby Kullman » Wed Nov 23, 2022 6:13 pm

¿What about the actual comprehension of the meaning of the text?

I mean... it doesn't matter how fast you read, or how many words you understand, if you can't get the message than the author is willing to transmit with his text.

If you can understand the message, it really doesn't matter if you miss some words, because you can get an aproximation to the meaning of those words by context, which will improve when you find those words again in other texts.

There are some exceptions, and poetry or old texts might require the use of a dictionary, which i personally prefer to avoid...

I understand, anyways, than with ideographic characters this aproach might be more difficult...
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Re: Reading level: which is more important to you – speed or accuracy?

Postby Le Baron » Wed Nov 23, 2022 6:44 pm

Kullman wrote:If you can understand the message, it really doesn't matter if you miss some words, because you can get an aproximation to the meaning of those words by context, which will improve when you find those words again in other texts.

However... sometimes, especially at lower intermediate, you can be reading and thinking you know what's being said when in fact you're a bit off target. Happens in listening too. I've listened to things multiple times and then realised I had completely the wrong idea of what was being said, even though I thought otherwise.

Some words are key to understanding a text and worth looking-up. But which ones...?
Last edited by Le Baron on Wed Nov 23, 2022 10:56 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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