Mind Your Language is a British sitcom that premiered on ITV in 1977. It was produced by London Weekend Television and directed by Stuart Allen. Three series were made by LWT between 1977 and 1979, and the show was briefly revived in 1985 (but this series was, in most ITV regions, transmitted in 1986), with six of the original cast. The series shows how people of different countries with different social backgrounds, religions, and languages exist in the same classroom.
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Mind Your Language Summary
The show is set in an adult education college in London and focuses on the class in English as a Foreign Language taught by Mr. Jeremy Brown (portrayed by Barry Evans), who is employed to teach a group of foreign students.
Mind Your Language Cast then and now
Mind Your Language Cast School staff:
Barry Evans as Jeremy Brown – the English teacher and focal point of most of the series. He is a good-natured and earnest single man in his thirties who lives alone. He has a Bachelor of Arts from Oxford University. He was hired in the series pilot, in which he was warned that the previous teacher was driven insane by the students. Mr Brown is up to the challenge; however, he is often exasperated by the students’ creative interpretations of the English language.
Zara Nutley as Dolores Courtney – the stuffy, imperious principal of the school. Miss Courtney has a great dislike of the male gender, thinks women are superior to men and prefers female teachers. She hesitates to hire Mr Brown, but reluctantly puts him on a month’s trial. Miss Courtney likes to drop by the English classroom unannounced to check up on the progress of Mr Brown‘s students, and often leaves disappointed. She nearly eloped with a man in her early years but was caught and sent home by her father. However, it was revealed that Miss Courtney was only six years old at the time and the “man” was eight. Her first name was mentioned only in the episode “Brief Re-encounter”. She has a Master of Arts from Oxford.
Iris Sadler as Gladys (Series 1-3) – the tea lady in the school cafeteria, most often referred to as “Gladys the Tea Lady”. She is a vivacious and friendly woman in her seventies. In the third season, it is revealed that she is a widow. She has a friendly relationship with both Sidney and Mr Brown. She often cajoles Mr Brown, and tattles on Miss Courtney.
Tommy Godfrey as Sidney (Series 1-3) – the caretaker of the school. A rough and roguish Cockney who speaks in rhyming slang. He is aged in his sixties, and referred to as Sid; only Miss Courtney calls him by his full name. He dislikes his long-term partner, and wears a black tie on their anniversary. Despite not being married, he routinely refers to her as his wife. He is hard of hearing, which often creates misunderstandings. He is very fond of alcohol, and tricks the students into buying drinks for him and giving him money. He also steals supplies from the school and sells them. He is friendly with both Mr Brown and Gladys.
Mind Your Language Cast Students:
Dino Shafeek as Ali Nadim (Series 1–3) – a Pakistani initially unemployed at the beginning of the first season, who later gets a job as a door to door salesman. and the first student to make an appearance. He is originally from Lahore, Pakistan, although he once stated he grew up in Delhi (probably making him a Muhajir – the people who migrated from India to Pakistan after the Partition of India in 1947). Practically never seen without his Jinnah cap, he is the most vocal, honest, and hardworking of the students, with Anna being the second. He often misinterprets the English for a comical sense, but has a very fair command of it. As a Pakistani Muslim, he has a vocal and occasionally physical rivalry with Ranjeet, who is an Indian Sikh. Ali’s typical catchphrases are “yes please” (in situations where he should say “yes, thank you” or “yes indeed”), “oh blimey!”, “Squeeze me please” (which is how he pronounces “Excuse me please”), and “jolly good“.
George Camiller as Giovanni Capello – a stereotypical Italian Catholic chef, the class’s loudest student and de facto class monitor. He is best friends with Max, who becomes his flatmate. Giovanni’s main problem with English is understanding metaphors and large words, though he often answers wrongly on purpose to amuse the class. He often calls Mr Brown Professori. When shocked or surprised, he often remarks and he says the catchphrases like “Santa Maria”, “Santa Daisy”, “Okey Cokey”, “Buona Sera” or “Holy Ravioli”. When he doesn’t understand something he says scusi. He has an elaborate set of first names: Giovanni Vincenzo Marco Dino Alberto Leonardo etc. His last name is sometimes spelled “Cupello” in the closing credits.
Jacki Harding as Anna Schmidt – a stereotypical German who works as an au pair. In her introduction, she refers to “German efficiency” and, accordingly, Anna is a hard-working student, occasionally asking legitimate questions and as the series progresses, answering Mr Brown’s questions correctly. Her main problem is mixing v and w sounds. She also punctuates her sentences with German words. She is shown to have exceptional physical strength and she is never reluctant to show it, often punching fellow students, such as Max, if they try to flirt with her. While in one episode, when religion was being argued over, she said that Lutheranism was the true religion, but in the episode “How’s Your Father”, she said that there isn’t any life after death.
Ricardo Montez as Juan Cervantes – a Spanish Catholic bartender with an optimistic outlook. Juan is always laughing at himself, confident of his answers even when they are completely wrong. Early in the series, Juan speaks almost no English (apart from episode 2 where he describes Miss Courtney as “Plenty awesome, very good!”) and answers everything with “por favor” (please), necessitating Giovanni to translate some key terms for him (as Spanish and Italian have many mutually intelligible words). His typical catchphrase is “s’alright!” and sometimes when he is corrected he says “Sorry, wrong number”. Juan’s English improves as the series goes on, but he remains one of the worst speakers, often speaking a mix of English and Spanish. He cares a great deal for Mr Brown, whom he considers almost as part of his family.
Albert Moses as Ranjeet Singh – a London Underground employee from Punjab in India and a devout Sikh. He was mistaken for a Pakistani when Mr Brown asked him to sit next to his “fellow countryman”, Ali Nadim, in the first episode. He frequently argues with Ali, who is a Pakistani Muslim. He has a good vocabulary but tends to mix up his general knowledge, and upon being corrected he always puts his hands together and says “a thousand apologies”. When angered by people, he sometimes threatens them with his kirpan. He and Ali become friends in the later episodes of the series.
Pik-Sen Lim as Chung Su-Lee (series 1-3) – a stereotypical Chinese communist woman who works as a secretary at the Chinese Embassy. She is never seen without her Little Red Book of Mao, from which she often quotes. She constantly mixes up her r and l sounds. Early in the series, she had a fierce ideological rivalry with Taro, her Japanese classmate, but later in the series, he often springs to her defence when a character insults her or China. When she quotes Chairman Mao, Mr. Brown replies “That’s a matter of opinion”.
Robert Lee as Tarō Nagazumi (Series 1–3) – a Japanese electronics executive who works as a representative for the London branch of the fictional Japan-based electronic company, Bushido Electronics. He speaks English quite fluently, but has a habit of adding -o to almost every word he says (as in “thank-o,” “England-o,” and so on) and always replies “Ah So!” and bows whenever he is called upon. Early in the series he is at odds with Su-Lee due to Japan and China’s own political differences in the 1970s, but becomes a friend of hers later on. Most of the time he is seen with his camera.
Kevork Malikyan as Maximillian Andrea Archimedes Papandrious (Series 1–3) – a stereotypical Greek shipping agency worker from Athens, and is often paired with Giovanni. He is attracted to Danielle, but as the show progresses, the three become friends. Max tends to misunderstand metaphors and large words. He also has a heavy accent, which causes him to add h to almost every word he says. Later, he shares his flat with Giovanni, with whom he is a close friend; these two characters have the best command of the English language of all the students in the series.
Françoise Pascal as Danielle Favre (Series 1–3) – an amorous young French Catholic au pair who instantly grabs the attention of all the men, including Mr Brown. Her good looks often distract Giovanni and Max from their answers, while Mr Brown is often found in seemingly incriminating positions with her, and she is strongly attracted to him. She is annoyed when an attractive young Swedish blonde, Ingrid Svenson, joins the class, instigating a rivalry for Mr Brown’s attention.
Jamila Massey as Jamila Ranjha (Series 1–3) – a stereotypical Indian housewife from Shimla. When she first joins the class she barely speaks any English – she rants in Hindi when Mr Brown asks her her name, and when she finally does understand she decides to write her name on the blackboard in Urdu because she cannot write it in English. Although she needs Ali to translate for her in the first series, by series 3 she shows a marked improvement and is able to communicate in English without needing any help. She often calls Mr Brown “Masterji” (Hindi roughly meaning “teacher” or “professor”), and her catchphrase early in the series is “gud hefening” (which is how she pronounces “good evening”). During class, she is often found knitting. She is shown to be a Christian in the episode “Guilty or not Guilty?”, when she swears on the Bible to tell the truth. Moreover, she wears a cross around her neck from the 11th episode of the first season. But in an episode called “A Point of Honour”, she says the true religion is Buddhism. Also, in the episode “I Belong to Glasgow”, she is among the students who crossed themselves with Juan. (The others are Danielle, Max and Giovanni.)
Anna Bergman as Ingrid Svenson (Series 2 and 4) – a Swedish au pair who joins the class at the beginning of series 2. She is attractive and straightforward about her attraction to Mr Brown, sparking a rivalry between her and Danielle. Her main problem with English is word order, often getting words mixed up, such as “you for I question answer”. She transfers schools at the end of Series 2, but returns in the independently-produced Series 4.
Gabor Vernon as Zoltán Szabó (Series 2) – a Hungarian student who only appears during series 2. He knows very little English and requires a phrasebook for everything. He picks up slang quickly, most of which comes from Giovanni and Juan. At the end of series 2, he returns to Hungary. His typical catchphrase is to say “Bocsánat?” (pronounced “bochanot ”, the Hungarian word for “sorry” or “excuse me”) to everything said to him in English.