Why do I read right to left?
July 11, 2009 1:26 PM   Subscribe

Why Do I Read Right to Left?

I am not dyslexic or learning disabled, but I always scroll through books, newspapers, magazines rtl. Is it because the index and glossary were always in the back of the book? I am extremely right-handed, and I did go to Hebrew school as a child, where right to left was how you do it. But why do I still do it? Google is of no help. And yes, I heart palindromes.
posted by emhutchinson to Writing & Language (10 answers total)
I did go to Hebrew school as a child, where right to left was how you do it.

The things you learn early, when your brain is still young and malleable, are very difficult to unlearn. That's the whole point behind sending tiny children to Hebrew school, or teaching your baby sign language, etc. Language and reading influence the way our rapidly-forming brains take shape.

Also, people are idiosyncratic and sometimes do things -- and then redo them over and over -- just to feel different and special and wonder why they are the way they are.
posted by hermitosis at 1:37 PM on July 11, 2009

I do it too so if you figure out why, let me know.
posted by Flacka at 1:50 PM on July 11, 2009

Simply because it's natural for you.

You have early training to look at words right-to-left, which will influence you in later life. It isn't an "ism" or anything like that, just a product of your early training. I do it too occasionally, but not with everything - with books, I look at the back to see the appendix out of curiosity, then flip through end-to-beginning to see the structure of what I'll be reading.

So... why do you do it? Probably a little of your earlier training with Hebrew and a big helping of curiosity.
posted by neewom at 1:55 PM on July 11, 2009

Sorry, not sure I understand the question. So if you were to read a novel, you would read the chapters in reverse order? Or did you just mean that when browsing through magazines, you flip through it starting from the back (which isn't particularly unusual)?
posted by pravit at 2:06 PM on July 11, 2009

Pravit, I think the poster means she starts at the right side of a page and her eyes scan leftward.
posted by Happydaz at 2:12 PM on July 11, 2009

If you mean flipping though the pages from back to front, I do the same thing. It's because I'm looking at the front cover (try doing it with your right hand -- hard isn't it? :-)
posted by TruncatedTiller at 2:13 PM on July 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

I read both ways. Read Left to right and then back again right to left because it saves time. Totally normal and you just reassemble in order.
posted by Ironmouth at 4:17 PM on July 11, 2009

I didn't learn an RtL language as a kid, yet I do this often. I've no clue why, and I'd love to know what causes my eyes/brain to do it. I usually don't even realize I've done it until after doing it several times in a row, and sometimes I catch myself reading entire paragraphs backwards—actually starting at the last word and reading backwards up to the beginning.
posted by Mikey-San at 6:32 PM on July 11, 2009

I've only read literature in English, and I sometimes go right-to-left when browsing through magazines where there aren't a lot of long articles, so doing it "backwards" isn't too cumbersome or confusing (I just did it today with Entertainment Weekly). I think for some reason, there are times where it just feels more comfortable flipping through with my left thumb on the page edges than my right, even though I'm mainly right-handed (though I do some things like eat finger foods with my left).

I don't think the index would have much to do with it, because it's not too hard to use your right thumb to go to the end, find what you need, and then flip backwards to that page.

But the fact that you prefer right-to-left might just be a muscle-memory thing from your childhood. I suppose if there were more anecdotal support from people who grew up reading a different language right-to-left, and are still compelled to do the same thing, that might be it.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 8:51 PM on July 11, 2009

I totally do the same thing. Always wondered why too. Are you right-handed or left-handed?
posted by lazywhinerkid at 2:34 AM on July 12, 2009

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