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The Education of Hyman Kaplan

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Leo Rosten wrote his first tale of Hyman Kaplan when he was 24 and it was published to great applause by the New Yorker. Over the next two years the magazine ran all 15 of the original stories that were eventually published in 1937 as The Education of Hyman Kaplan.


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Leo Rosten wrote his first tale of Hyman Kaplan when he was 24 and it was published to great applause by the New Yorker. Over the next two years the magazine ran all 15 of the original stories that were eventually published in 1937 as The Education of Hyman Kaplan.

30 review for The Education of Hyman Kaplan

  1. 4 out of 5

    Kressel Housman

    For Jews who love word play, this is an absolute hoot! Non-Jews who love word play might also like it, but as it takes place in an English class for a bunch of Jewish immigrants, mit Yiddisheh eksents yet, it'll fill Jews with nostalgia, even Jews who don't speak Yiddish. After all, it's a comedy about bubby and zaidy! Hyman Kaplan's mistakes are guaranteed to give you the giggles. They certainly did for me!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jenny

    Okay, Goodreads, now I've finished it. This book is light and funny. Hyman Kaplan is an immigrant living in the United States and taking a beginners English class at a night school for adults. The book focuses on Kaplan's strange use of the English language: his odd spelling, bizarre pronunciation, and his logical (but incorrect) understanding of word meanings. Kaplan's teacher, Mr. Parkhill, does his best to be patient with Kaplan and to correct his errors, but Kaplan is incorrigible. The other Okay, Goodreads, now I've finished it. This book is light and funny. Hyman Kaplan is an immigrant living in the United States and taking a beginners English class at a night school for adults. The book focuses on Kaplan's strange use of the English language: his odd spelling, bizarre pronunciation, and his logical (but incorrect) understanding of word meanings. Kaplan's teacher, Mr. Parkhill, does his best to be patient with Kaplan and to correct his errors, but Kaplan is incorrigible. The other students have differing relationships with Kaplan, from antagonistic to respectful. The structure of the book consists of separate stories, each with its own title, regarding a different aspect of Kaplan's education or a different level of understanding achieved by Parkhill concerning his most difficult yet most entertaining student. I would love to use parts of this book as samples for my writing classes. I work with many second language students, and I've seen many of the errors and much of the confusion in them that Ross shows in Kaplan. And I've felt the same frustration that Mr. Parkhill feels with seeing the same or the same type of errors over and over. All in all, this is a good little book. I recommend it as something entertaining and light to read between heavier books. If you're a second language speaker or an instructor of second language students, you will definitely get a kick out of this. It is pre-World War II, though, so it's dated but still enjoyable.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Ian

    It was over 30 years ago when I originally read this short comic novel, and I remember thinking at the time it was hilarious. I have just re-read it after a copy was loaned to me. I am harder to please these days, but I still think it’s very funny. It dates from 1937, and is set amongst a class of newly arrived (mostly Jewish) immigrants to NYC, who are learning basic English. The conscientious but rather conventional teacher, Mr Parkhill, finds himself faced with the genial but extraordinary ch It was over 30 years ago when I originally read this short comic novel, and I remember thinking at the time it was hilarious. I have just re-read it after a copy was loaned to me. I am harder to please these days, but I still think it’s very funny. It dates from 1937, and is set amongst a class of newly arrived (mostly Jewish) immigrants to NYC, who are learning basic English. The conscientious but rather conventional teacher, Mr Parkhill, finds himself faced with the genial but extraordinary character of Hyman Kaplan, a man who writes each letter of his name with a different coloured crayon; for whom every recitation in class is the opportunity for an extravagant public performance; and who applies a unique logic to learning the English language. This includes conjugating the verb “to fail” as “Fail, Failed, Bankropt” and offering the word “skinny” as the opposite of “rich”. Anyone who’s a GR member probably enjoys language and wordplay, and the wordplay here is very clever and very funny. It’s also next to impossible not to feel affection for the cast of characters, who include the struggling Mrs Moskowitz, the shy Miss Mitnick (the best student in the class and Kaplan’s great rival in classroom discussions), and of course the wonderful Hyman Kaplan himself.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jami

    I loved this book! Mr. Kaplan made me laugh; at some times I felt sorry for him and others I cheered him on! I also did feel some empathy to Mr. Parkhill as well! What an interesting story about Mr. Kaplan and his class at the Night Preparatory School for Adults. As I was reading it, I could hear his accent and his pronounciation - it certainly makes you stop and think how difficult (and illogical) the English language can be, particularly for non-native speakers.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Anna Szabo

    Essential reading for an ESL teacher. It did become a little redundant after about page 70. But otherwise, an amusing read!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jeanette (Again)

    A little outdated, having first been published in 1937, but cute nonetheless. I suppose the humor would have been more immediate at the time it was written. It does show many of the reasons why it's difficult for foreigners to learn English! There are so many ways the language can trip you up if you didn't grow up with it.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Eva

    A must for every ESL/EFL teacher (or any foreign language teacher for that matter). I must admit I enjoyed the ingenious Czech translation more than the English original. If you like this book watch Mind your language series (or vice versa)!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan Lipman

    Charming, observant and at times very funny account of (mostly Jewish) immigrants into NY. The use of spelling to capture immigrant accents and lexicon is terrific. But monothematic, and now a tad dated.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Ann

    Cute fun read. Rather dated since it was first published in 1937, but it was a nice view of my father's generation. And, probably very true of current ESL classes.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Correen

    Very clever and poignant book about a Jewish immigrant in the early 20th century. Hyman Kaplan loves learning the language in coming to American but he lacks some basic skills of pronunciation. He is, however, a bright man who uses his own logic in determining the meaning of word meanings and phrases. The result is delightful humor in typical Rosten style.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Trevor

    First published as a collection in 1937, Rosten's vignettes depict the antics of one particular immigrant student in an adult education night class intended to help foreigners better assimilate to American culture. The humor of the book invariably relies on stereotyping its cast of characters in a way that would have felt warm and light-hearted in the years before the second World War, and Rosten's puns work well with the premise, even if the jokes rely entirely on the suspension of disbelief. Ro First published as a collection in 1937, Rosten's vignettes depict the antics of one particular immigrant student in an adult education night class intended to help foreigners better assimilate to American culture. The humor of the book invariably relies on stereotyping its cast of characters in a way that would have felt warm and light-hearted in the years before the second World War, and Rosten's puns work well with the premise, even if the jokes rely entirely on the suspension of disbelief. Rosten's book was incredibly well-received throughout the 1930s and 1940s--the original stories, published in 1935, were immediately published by The New Yorker--and Kaplan was popular enough to warrant two further bodies of fiction from Rosten. So popular was Rosten's book, in fact, that it was "drafted" as the first title listed in the American Services Edition paperbacks shipped to GI's during WWII. The book, however, is demonstrably a remnant of its time. Read now by the wrong audience, it could easily be misinterpreted as something anti-semitic, even though the context of the book's content should demonstrate that no such meaning would ever have been intended, and these sorts of misreadings would be inconceivable during its heyday. Rosten's stories are certainly problematic to modern sensibilities, but I tend to think that they're as much an indictment of the systematic pressure on immigrants to assimilate as it is a favorable political positioning of the practice. Rosten seems to value the cultural background of his protagonists as much as he also sympathizes with their seeming need to become more naturalized citizens of the United States. As the United States marched further toward war, and especially with the rise of anti-semitism in Europe and the closure of America's borders to Jews abroad, the ability of certain immigrants to become more functionally invisible would have been of sincere value--and while Rosten doesn't tackle the subject with any sense of genuine philosophical complexity, he assuredly understood what he was doing with his humor at the time, and thereafter. I also don't find the book as offensive given that Rosten's style of humor has been a hallmark of many great comedic characters since, including Peter Sellers' (and Steve Martin's) Inspector Clouseau. It may be my postmodern brain that makes such connections, but I couldn't help but feel as though I was reading a lost Pink Panther bit more than once throughout the book. It's worth a read for those looking for explorations of 20th century immigrant literature, but otherwise, I think it's fine to skip it.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Joan

    I first read this and the sequel as a kid and loved it. Having just finished them again, I still love the books. These would be excellent books to bring to a wider audience at this anti-immigrant moment. The setting is an adult education classroom of mostly immigrants who are trying desperately to learn English. Their teacher is Mr. Parkhill. Hyman Kaplan is a student in this classroom. But to say that Hyman Kaplan is a student is to miss the point. He is the creative center of the class. He can I first read this and the sequel as a kid and loved it. Having just finished them again, I still love the books. These would be excellent books to bring to a wider audience at this anti-immigrant moment. The setting is an adult education classroom of mostly immigrants who are trying desperately to learn English. Their teacher is Mr. Parkhill. Hyman Kaplan is a student in this classroom. But to say that Hyman Kaplan is a student is to miss the point. He is the creative center of the class. He can get out of almost any argument about English and win, no matter how wrong he might be. He is both a stereotype of the eager immigrant and a unique individual ferociously proud to be American. As a side note, you can learn a lot about language in this book. I think the first book is not quite as good as the second book, simply because I found myself laughing out loud more with the second book.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Sue

    My daughter checked out this book from the library over and over through her high school years, and I think she was probably the only one who ever read it in those years. The book may have influenced her to major in applied linquistics in college! I just read The Education of Hyman Kaplan for the first time and it is hilarious! The book was published in 1937 and the setting is a classroom of immigrant students struggling to learn the English language. Hyman Kaplan is the star as he always has so My daughter checked out this book from the library over and over through her high school years, and I think she was probably the only one who ever read it in those years. The book may have influenced her to major in applied linquistics in college! I just read The Education of Hyman Kaplan for the first time and it is hilarious! The book was published in 1937 and the setting is a classroom of immigrant students struggling to learn the English language. Hyman Kaplan is the star as he always has some off-the-wall, genius way of phrasing and understanding English. As an example: "For a long time Mr. Parkhill had believed that the incredible things which Mr. Hyman Kaplan did to the English language were the products of a sublime and transcendental ignorance. That was the only way, for example, that he could account for Mr. Kaplan's version of the name of the fourth President of the United States: 'James Medicine.'....Any final doubts Mr. Parkhill might have felt on the whole matter were resolved once and for all when Mr. Kaplan conjugated 'to die' as 'die, dead, funeral.'" This book shows the difficulty of making sense of the English language, and those who undertake learning it as adults are to be commended.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Pat

    I still laugh hysterically at the misunderstandings of the English language by the earnest H*Y*M*A*N*K*A*P*L*A*N ever since I was introduced to him by my Jr. High Latin teacher...maybe she felt some of the same frustration in teaching us Latin that Mr.Parkhill felt in the Adult School where he taught Mr. Kaplan and his fellow immigrants...

  15. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    Hyman Kaplan was a great character. I loved his confidence and the way he tried to logically explain his many hilarious ways of speaking English. The humor was a little tainted for me by the condescending, unlikeable teacher and it was hard at first to get used to reading the phonetic version of the heavily accented dialogue, but it was still a fun, light read overall.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Olivia

    I got this book for free and decided to give it a try. It was pretty funny although with the way the accents are worked into the spelling, I had some trouble figuring out what the words were supposed to be.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Sally

    "Mr Parkhill read what some unknown Muse in secret visitation had whispered to Hyman Kaplan" By sally tarbox on 4 August 2018 Format: Kindle Edition Probably *3.5 for this highly entertaining little novel, set in an English language class for immigrants to the US in 1937. Mr Parkhill is the harrassed teacher; the students primarily Italian and Jewish. Although the action is all based around classroom exchanges, we nonetheless get an insight into the main personalities, headed by Yiddish speaker Hym "Mr Parkhill read what some unknown Muse in secret visitation had whispered to Hyman Kaplan" By sally tarbox on 4 August 2018 Format: Kindle Edition Probably *3.5 for this highly entertaining little novel, set in an English language class for immigrants to the US in 1937. Mr Parkhill is the harrassed teacher; the students primarily Italian and Jewish. Although the action is all based around classroom exchanges, we nonetheless get an insight into the main personalities, headed by Yiddish speaker Hyman Kaplan. "In his forties, a plump, red-faced gentleman, with wavy blond hair, TWO fountain pens in his outer pocket and a perpetual smile. It was a strange smile, Mr Parkhill remarked, vague, bland and consistent in its monotony." Hyman Kaplan is an unforgettable character, who reminded me of Hasek's 'Good Soldier Schweik'- either a complete fool or- we come to believe- singularly clever, always leaving the authorities with egg on their face. Thus when corrected for the phrasing of his advice to a relative: "if your eye falls on a bargain, please pick it up", Kaplan emerges victorious with his explanation "Mine oncle has a gless eye." There is a somewhat combative relationship between Kaplan and his fellow students, notably the quiet but more linguistically adept Miss Minick. But little hints from his class work suggest a logical and warm hearted individual. The humour hinges on the vagaries of the English language: Kaplan conjugates 'to bite': "If is write 'write, wrote, written', so vy isn't 'bite, bote, bitten?" He gives "a fervent speech extolling the D'Oyley Carte Company's performance of an operetta by two English gentlemen referred to as 'Goldberg and Solomon." He gleefully participates in correcting Miss Mitnick's composition on her job: "Aha! Vaitress!", he cried out."Should be a' V' in vaitress!" Rosten writes a convincing Yiddish acent; very funny.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Joel Mitchell

    In my college language classes (English & Greek) I had a classmate who was always ready to stand up and enthusiastically share his compositions or translations with the class. His answers frequently left the professor with a look of disbelief on his face while he tried to figure out how to even start correcting the beaming student. More than once, poor Mr. Smith looked like he was thinking about throwing himself out the window (if only it weren’t on the ground floor), and Dr. Brown once said, “N In my college language classes (English & Greek) I had a classmate who was always ready to stand up and enthusiastically share his compositions or translations with the class. His answers frequently left the professor with a look of disbelief on his face while he tried to figure out how to even start correcting the beaming student. More than once, poor Mr. Smith looked like he was thinking about throwing himself out the window (if only it weren’t on the ground floor), and Dr. Brown once said, “No, I said translate verse 10” only to hear “that was verse 10.” This book took me right back to those classes. The book follows the travails of Mr. Parkhill, the beginners class teacher at the American Night Preparatory School for Adults as he tries to teach English to immigrants, including the irrepressible Hyman Kaplan (aka H*Y*M*A*N K*A*P*L*A*N). Most of the humor revolves around Mr. Kaplan’s enthusiastic mispronunciation and misuse of English (e.g. “Bad, Worse, Rotten”). Some readers might find this offensive (it certainly isn’t PC), but since the focus is generally on Mr. Kaplan’s self-assurance and unique thought process driving his teacher to distraction I felt that it was more about his charmingly ridiculous personality than a dig at immigrants. The other classmates show a more realistic portrait of someone trying to learn this ridiculous language of ours. After a while the jokes were a little one-note, but Mr. Kaplan reminded me so much of my classmate (who similarly butchered English in spite of it being his native language) and of the frustration of trying to teach English as a second language (which I did part time for about a year) that I was thoroughly amused.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Rlygirl

    Gut-busting hilarious read! Ross is a wordsmith, and the pictures he paints are marvelous, putting the reader right there in the classroom with the angelic KAPLAN, the frustrated but curious teacher Mr. Parkhill, and the rest of the class, split in loyalty. Funny funny funny. Our English language certainly is hard to learn, and the ways it is pointed out are priceless. I like re-reading this book, and I don't think I will ever get tired of it.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Massanutten Regional Library

    Lisa, North River patron, June 2019, 4 stars: The Education of H*Y*M*A*N K*A*P*L*A*N is a series of fictional stories about immigrants learning to speak English in night school. This is an older book that offers some humorous accounts related to the complexity of the English language. Hyman Kaplan, the most challenging student in the class, has a buoyant spirit that makes him a character the reader may find him/herself rooting for.

  21. 4 out of 5

    LB

    This book is a fun and easy read. I laughed out loud reading it. The only issue I could take it with it is that this class doesn't appear to be beginning ESL unless at that time, there were different requirements. The students' main problem seems to be their accent (quite exaggerated, as far as I am concerned) and some grammatical irregularities. Their vocabularies are quite extensive and they make themselves understood most of the time. And certainly their star student, Miss Mitnick, is in no w This book is a fun and easy read. I laughed out loud reading it. The only issue I could take it with it is that this class doesn't appear to be beginning ESL unless at that time, there were different requirements. The students' main problem seems to be their accent (quite exaggerated, as far as I am concerned) and some grammatical irregularities. Their vocabularies are quite extensive and they make themselves understood most of the time. And certainly their star student, Miss Mitnick, is in no way a beginner, more like pretty solid intermediate.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Sonulik

    At the time when I read it (some ten years ago) in Czech translation I thought it was hilarious. I still do! No serious stuff nor any plot, just a very feel-good and comforting book. I think that is exactly what we need to read in hard times we are living in now. (Btw, I started Wodehouse´s Meet Mr Mulliner yesterday :)

  23. 4 out of 5

    Harry Covert

    I’ve read this book many times over the past 40 years or so. This is humor at its absolute best. With all of the turmoil these days readers can simply smile and laugh and know for sure there remains classic humor available. Reading uplifts for sure and never outdated.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Eva

    A funny book about the trials of learning English with it's lackadaisical logic with a protagonist whose logic is surely more watertight, but never right. The character sketches were great and played off of each other very well.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Mayra P.

    Very interesting book and it definitely does relate to myself as a foreigner in this country trying to overcome the language barrier and culture shock!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Megan Tennant

    This book is like a warm hug: endearing, witty, and a lot of fun.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Nicole

    Adorable good fun and hilarious wordplay galore. Hyman Kaplan is a pip, up there with the great comic characters, Auntie Mame, Amelia Bedelia, and others.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Gabriela

    What a funny, quirky book. I recommend it to all lovers of grammar and word play and education.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Axel

    kind of a funny read.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Rufer

    Brilliantly playful.

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