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Japanese Social Media Goes Gaga Over Anime-Style English Textbook

Categories: East Asia, Japan, Citizen Media, Humor, Ideas, Language
New Horizon Adult textbook

A new English conversation textbook aimed at adult learners. Image widely shared on social media [1].

New Horizon [2], the standard English conversation textbook used in Japanese middle schools, has received an anime-style makeover [3], and the changes have gone viral in Japan under the hashtag #エレン先生 [4] (#EllenSensei).

After her middle school entrance ceremony today, my daughter came home with her new English textbook. Ellen Sensei is totally cute!

The new look is a total departure from the staid and anodyne New Horizon series.

New (left) and old (right) versions of the New Horizon English textbook. #EllenSensei [7]

The cute anime-style good looks of “Ellen Sensei,” the English instructor who guides students through all three books, have even been turned into fan art, some of which is so risque that the creator of the character has called for restraint [10].

English is one of the most predominant foreign languages taught in Japan, and the country's government is making a push to improve students’ proficiency in it. Results so far are mixed —  there are huge disparities in English ability [13] across different parts of Japan.

This isn't New Horizon's first foray into anime style. The publisher has a textbook aimed at adult learners that capitalizes on their nostalgia for the middle school textbooks, but with anime aesthetics.

Speaking of which, did you know there is a New Horizon textbook aimed at adult learners that features adult versions of the original characters? The themes and situations are totally realistic!

Published in 2011 [17], this textbook delves into adult themes such as dating in order to teach English that might actually be useful on a day-to-day basis.

If the characters in my middle school English conversation textbooks had been this cute I would have totally become fluent in English.

According to the introduction [20], the textbook follows the adventures of the original characters from the middle school New Horizon textbook following their return to Japan, after spending years overseas.

The textbook also uses “Augmented Reality” (AR) technology that can be unlocked with a smartphone, as shown in the video below:

As Japanese online magazine Spotlight [21] notes about the characters of the middle school textbook:

どうやらケンとユミ、ルーシーの三角関係の話のようですが、いろいろとドラマがあるようです。ストーリーにドキドキしながら英語の勉強もできるなんて、素晴らしい教材じゃないですか!

Apparently Yumi, Lucy and Ken form a love triangle that results in plenty of drama. You can follow the twists and turns of the plot while practicing English, making the textbook a great learning.