Fantasy tale provides best of both worlds with a story that students both can and will want to read.

Runa Wakatsuki was just an ordinary Japanese junior high school girl, until the day she decided on a whim to stop by an antique store in her neighborhood. Finding a pendant that struck her fancy, she slipped it on, and was transported to another world.

Finding herself alone in a forest, a rider on a horse came galloping up, handing her a letter and urgently telling her that it must be delivered to Princess Lilly. Runa had no idea who the princess was or where to find her, or even what the name of this land of knights, monsters, and magic was. But she knew she was now far away from Japan, and even if she wanted to return, she’d soon learn that this world’s people saw her as the girl of legend, the one they’d been waiting for to save them from the dragon that terrorized their lives.

If you’re thinking all that sounds like something from a light novel, Japan’s young adult literature genre that often overlaps with the storytelling style of anime and manga, you’re right. But what makes this light novel unique is that it’s written entirely in English and meant to be read by Japanese people who’re learning the language.

The Legendary Girl Who Was Reborn in an Alternate World is a full-length light novel, with its adventure playing out over the course of 178 pages. Published by NHK Shuppan, the literary arm of Japan’s public broadcaster NHK, it’s written at the level of English Japanese students learn during junior high school, but just as much effort was put into making the story enjoyable and entertaining as there was in positioning it as a learning tool.

It’s a clever idea, one that hopefully will solve a tricky dilemma with language learning. Studying a language just for the sake of studying, doing nothing with it but filling in worksheets and answering test questions, is a quick way to kill a student’s motivation. When you’re still learning a language and your skills are in the beginner-to-intermediate range, though, most of the reading material you can handle is actually written for much younger native speakers. It isn’t particularly rewarding to read a book where the story never gets more compelling than “See Spot run.”

By combining a manageable level of English with a narrative that’s not for the youngest of children, The Legendary Girl Who Was Reborn in an Alternate World should be able to hold readers’ attention without making them feel like they’re banging their head against the language barrier, and the longer it keeps them reading, the more time they’ll spend interacting with the language, reinforcing what they’ve previously been taught about grammar and vocabulary while also potentially being exposed to a reasonable amount of new words and phrases. And of course, even though light novels and anime are primarily youth-oriented media, they have plenty of adult fans too, and the book should also be great for adults who’re looking for a refresher on what they learned in school but may have partially forgotten in the years since.

The Legendary Girl Who Was Reborn in an Alternate World also sounds like something that would be fun to incorporate into lesson plans if you’re teaching English in Japan, and the book, priced at 1,210 yen (US$11.40) can be ordered online directly from NHK Shuppan here.

Sources: PR Times, NHK Shuppan
Images: PR Times
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