Those who have taught English at a school in Japan would likely have encountered the New Horizon textbook series. Starting off with the basics of English, it takes students through a series of Rockwellian incidents such as “my grandma who goes to baseball games, but doesn’t know the rules.”
One man who has clearly gone through these idyllic situations one too many times is Brain Reyes. Taking New Horizon’s main characters ten years into their bleak futures, he has written a new version of the English textbook: Dark Horizon.
A piece which seems created to exorcise the memories of New Horizon for both student and teacher alike, it also provides uniquely useful phrases you’re not likely to find in any other textbook including “I love you like a fat kid loves cake” and “That’s not just any stack of boxes, that’s my house.”
The book begins by introducing us to the cast of characters who will guide us through our journey of learning English. Some of these rascals include former straight-A student turned junkie-prostitute Emi Ito, and gun-toting triad Bin Dong.
From there we follow the characters through their daily lives of drinking and gambling while learning how they naturally interact with each other.
Then the book follows each character more in depth and gives the phrases most relevant to their lifestyles. For example: Shin Tanaka, a delinquent biker with a nationalist bent, has a chapter offering the phrases most likely to irritate foreigners.
Finally the chapters end with a brief vocabulary list illustrating both good and bad usages of the words.
This might all seem like a goof and many former assistant language teachers will absolutely enjoy it on that level, but the reception it has been getting from students of English in Japan has also been largely positive such as in this Amazon review.
“There are a number of native-like sentences which can’t be found in teaching materials that can be purchased in the bookstores of Japan. It’s no wonder as the author is from New York. I recommend this for anyone studying English regardless of the level. I think it’s essential reading material to understand English movies.”
As that review says, Dark Horizon outlines words and phrases that would absolutely help towards understanding American movies and it’s all presented in a way that’s fun to read. It also made it to number one on Amazon for English phrase books and English learning method books. So, whether you’re a former/current English teacher, student of English, or just looking for a fun read this textbook is well worth the 1,300 yen (US$11).