4 visual novels for learning English

    The gameplay in learning English has been successfully used for a long time and teachers are looking for new opportunities to improve it.

    A visual short story is a cross between a computer game and a classic book. In fact, this is an interactive story, the basis of which is text, but for convenience, the reader is shown pictures of heroes and locations.

    It is because of the emphasis on the text that visual novels are considered a great way to learn foreign languages. But there are a few nuances.

    • Firstly, most visual short stories are created in Japan. Naturally, in Japanese. If you learn Japanese, enjoy and enjoy. But to learn English, you need to pay attention to localization - not always they turn out good.
    • Secondly, if the localization is successful, then this is doubly good. Indeed, when translating, localizers very rarely use complex or underutilized constructions and vocabulary, confining themselves to the well-known ones. Therefore, almost all good novels can be read with the level of English Intermediate and Upper-Intermediate.

    Many visual novels allow the reader to influence the plot through the choice of answer options in the dialogs. And these choices directly affect the outcome of the game - the developers provide for individual endings that vary depending on the choices.

    The beauty of visual novels for learning English is that you manually control the text. That is, the paragraph will be on the screen until you read it. If necessary, you can sit over the replica for 10 or 20 minutes to understand all its nuances and subtext - the mechanics of visual novels allows this.

    We have selected several popular visual short stories with excellent translation to help you learn English.


    A short story that tells about the life of Japanese teenager Tomoya Okazaki. His mother died and the guy lives with his father. Relations with him do not go well, so the student prefers to disappear from morning till night anywhere, but not at home.

    But there are changes in Tomoy’s life after he meets a little strange girl named Nagisa.

    At first glance, the game is like a banal date simulator. Actually, this is what scares away many adult readers. But once you get through the first 1.5-2 hours, the game opens up new facets of character characters and surprises with the plot.

    The original game was released in Japan in 2004 and immediately became a cult. Based on her motives, they wrote a manga, shot a full-length film and a small anime series for 24 episodes. However, only in 2014 on Kickstarter was a fundraiser for the creation of English localization.

    In the first 24 hours, the project raised $ 140,000, which amounted to almost half the amount required. As a result, the campaign raised over $ 540,000, nearly doubled all established borders. The translation was done by the Sekai Project studio, which professionally deals with the localization of computer games from Japanese to English, so the quality of the translation turned out to be excellent.

    An example of a dialogue in a short story:

    Tomoya: I hate this town. It's too filled with memories I'd rather forget. I go to school every day, hang out with my friends, and then I go home. There's no place I'd rather not go ever again. I wonder if anything will ever change? Will that day ever come?
    Nagisa: Anpan! Do you like this school? I have to say that I love it very, very much. But soon everything changes. Well, at least it does eventually.
    Tomoya: A girl I don't know ... She isn't talking to me ... She's probably talking to someone in her heart.
    Nagisa: Fun things ... Happy things ... They'll all ... They'll all eventually change some day, you know? But can you still love this place?
    Tomoya: Just go and find more. All you have to do is find other fun and happy things. It's not so hard. Come on, let's go. And so we begin ... A long, long upward climb ...
    Interestingly, localizers explain certain points that may not be clear to readers. For example, in a separate window they reveal the meaning of the word “Anpan” - and it becomes clear that this is a kind of Japanese pie.

    Speech and vocabulary are quite simple, so EnglishDom teachers recommend the novel to students with Intermediate knowledge and above. At the same time, it can be read without any problems for students with Pre-Intermediate - in some cases it will be necessary to open the dictionary, but in general everything will be clear.

    A little bit about the scale of the novel. To complete all of its endings, it will take about 100 hours of leisurely reading.

    To be honest, not one of our teachers was able to get to the very end and get a true ending, despite the interesting plot and sincere empathy with the heroes. But you should definitely try the game.

    Saya no uta

    Sai Song is an iconic Japanese visual horror novel. To be honest, it goes well only to fans of the genre. The rest should not even try it. Although the story is extremely atmospheric and vibrant, there are very few such visual short stories. And the drawing is impressive - the artists did their best.

    The protagonist is a medical student named Sakisaka Fuminori, who after a car accident began to see the world completely different from what he really is. Now all people seem to him disgusting monsters, and all objects around are as if woven from meat.

    But at one point in his life, a girl appears who looks like an ordinary pretty girl, and not like a monster. And from that moment on, his life is changing dramatically. And not only his own fate depends on the decisions of the hero.

    The novel is very specific, but this is its charm. She perfectly combines Lovecraftian horrors, an excellent detective story and a powerful emotional component, which makes empathy even for negative heroes.

    In 2009, a fan-made translation of the novel was released, and there were a lot of errors and inaccuracies in it. And only in 2013 the translation was brought to mind by the professional studio JAST USA. Now the novel is pleasant to go through, and it causes the readers exactly those emotions that it should cause.

    An example of the text of a short story:

    The language is quite simple, but you need to delve into the Internet to understand the context and individual phrases. In principle, this does not interfere with the general understanding of history, but if you are reading a short story for pumping English, you will have to work.

    Actually, that is why we recommend it to students with Intermediate level and above.

    Important! Novella has a rating of 18+ due to the presence of violent and sexual scenes. But they competently fit into the plot and occupy only a small part of the story.

    “The Song of Saiya” is considered a short story - it has only 3 endings, and its full passage will take only 5-7 hours. So it can be completely mastered in a few evenings.

    Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni

    “When Cicadas Cry” is a series of visual short stories about an “ordinary Japanese schoolboy” who finds himself in completely unusual circumstances. This is such a popular beginning for Japanese manga and anime that the phrase has already become a household word. We will consider here the first two parts of a series that form a complete story.

    The main character is Keiichi Maebara, who recently moved to a small village and is forced to go to a small village school. He meets several girls there and, in general, has a good time with them. But gradually the guy learns that the history of the village and its inhabitants is far from being as simple and naive as it might seem at first glance - secrets that he would prefer not to learn are revealed to the student.

    The game is quite long. In only two parts, 8 chapters, and the first 4 essentially reveal the characters' characters, describe the history of the place. There the main mysterious plot of the short story takes place. The following 4 chapters provide answers to questions and fully tell the story. And we guarantee you that it is much, much-oh-oh-oh deeper than it might seem at first.

    “When cicadas cry” does not provide the reader with choices in dialogue. You cannot influence the plot. Rather, it is a book with visual and sound design, but it even increases its value as a work of art.

    Interestingly, the novel very coolly explains the peculiarities of Japanese culture or information from the game world - as you read it, small dialogs with characters are opened, in which all the nuances are discussed. Dialogs are available separately from the main plot.

    Example text from a short story:
    [Keiichi is walking home from school with his bat and notices Rena is following him.]
    Keiichi: What do you want?
    Rena: Um ... Nothing ... Um ...
    Keiichi: What happened to the club, huh?
    Rena: Well ... I ... I was worried about you ... So I ...
    Keiichi: Don't follow me anymore. I said don't follow me!
    Rena: But Keiichi, I have to go this way. My house is over there.
    Keiichi: Then go ahead of me. [Walks to the side] You go first and then I'll go.
    Rena: Keiichi, I just wanted to-
    Keiichi: Hurry up and go! Now!
    Rena: Um ... I will, but ... Please put that bat down first. You're scaring me.
    Keiichi: Keep on walking!
    The language is quite accessible. There are no complex constructions and unused words - everything is as clear as possible, but at the same time emotionally. The short story can be read to students, starting with the level of Pre-Intermediate.

    The story is very big. Each chapter (and there are 8) takes from 10 to 25 hours of thoughtful reading. Therefore, the whole story will take about 150 hours - it all depends on the level of the language and speed of reading. But believe me, it's worth it.

    Endless summer

    Excellent visual short story from domestic developers. In general, this is almost a unique game, because there are very few good visual novels from post-Soviet countries.

    The game tells about an ordinary guy Semyon, who by chance and with the help of a 410 bus moved from our time to the end of the 90s and ended up in a strange pioneer camp “Owlet”. There he will stay for exactly a week, unravel his secret camps and get to know the pretty pioneers.

    The short story is built on the relationship between the main character and the girls. Moreover, the variability is quite high - the reader can influence the plot quite strongly with the help of replica choices in dialogs. But Endless Summer is not a date simulator. As you progress, the reader learns new details about the game world, and the story takes on a mystical connotation.

    Initially, translation into English was carried out by volunteers. Naturally, such a localization was far from ideal. Neutives who liked the game helped in proofreading and improvement.

    Given that the novel was completely developed by a team of enthusiasts who, in fact, did not have experience in this, the result was very, very worthy. The final version in English is also good. It is noteworthy that, on the initiative of the natives, the developers added explanatory text dice to certain moments of pioneering life or links to popular films or stories that English-speaking readers cannot know.

    Example text in the short story:

    The vocabulary is quite simple, but in some cases, the initivists completely redid the dialogs to make them sound more natural, so the difficulty of perceiving the text will jump from very easy to “need to think”. Intermediate level will be enough to understand the text and context, but to understand all the nuances of history, you need a minimum of Upper-Intermediate.

    Instead of conclusions

    Visual short stories are a great tool for learning a language. And of course, we could not list all the good games in this style here. Otherwise, the article would be unbearable. These 4 stories are the subjective choice of our team of teachers, who advise them most often.

    If you have any visual novels in English or in English localization that have come to you personally, write them in the comments. Perhaps we will create a separate note where we will describe them all.

    And for students of English, we emphasize separately that visual short stories are great as an additional learning tool. But it must be used along with classical classes.

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