Hyman Kaplan (/ˈhaɪmən ˈkæplən/) is a fictional learner of English who appears in a series of comedic short stories written by Leo Rosten. Kaplan is an important and historic example of ESL in popular culture.
Character overview[edit | edit source]
Kaplan is a Kiev-born Eastern European Jewish immigrant to the United States who speaks Yiddish as a native language. In 1935 New York he has lived in the USA for 15 years, and is learning English as a second language by attending evening classes. Much of the humour derives from Kaplan's difficulties in learning English. Mr Parkhill, who is his English teacher, and various other students provide support.
Analysis[edit | edit source]
Kaplan is a clear author surrogate for Rosten; there is a key difference however which is that Rosten had immigrated into the United States aged 3 (i.e. before the critical period for language learning) and was brought up bilingual in both Yiddish and English. Rosten is therefore lampooning adult immigrants, particularly his parents' generation, and particularly within his own Jewish-American culture.
Publication history[edit | edit source]
The short stories were initially published in The New Yorker from 1935; under the pseudonym "Leonard Q. Ross"; these were collected into a book The Education of Hyman Kaplan (1937). A second book was published in 1959 called The Return of Hyman Kaplan (1959). Both books were edited together, with minor changes, into O Kalpan! My Kaplan! published in 1976.
A Broadway stage musical adaptation written by Oscar Brand and Paul Nassau premiered in 1968, though it was not successful.