English is truly the international language of business and it unifies a wide diaspora struggling to master it from the commonwealth colonies to the Russian, Chinese, German, French and Italians.
‘A thousand apologies …’, so very often I used to catch Ranjeet mouthing the regret with folded hands while watching ‘Mind Your Language’ on late winter nights, tucked in under the razai and having a cup of coffee. Those were the carefree and idle days when I was pursuing my B.Sc. degree and staying alone at home.
Never mind the political incorrectness and ‘not-so-subtle’ jibes that happened routinely on the show – all possible kinds of stereotypes in terms of nationality,gender,political leanings, education were baked into the show. And yet we did enjoy it possibly by discounting the humor to be innocent and not taking life too seriously.
The central character to the show was Mr. Brown, a young Brit lad still wet behind his ears and likely to be conned by his motley bunch of students. Yet he is often shown to be caring and being the ‘peace-maker’ who tries to sort out even the personal problems of his students.
The school is led by Ms. Courtney – a spinster who is portrayed to be relatively efficient in managing the school administration and who openly professes her ‘hatred’ for men. She enjoys disturbing Mr. Brown’s class and has a very poor opinion of his students. She makes rather scathing remarks but the students too enjoy troubling her in return.
Sid the cockney speaking handyman is an interesting character whom we find it difficult to understand.
Of the ten students, Giovanni who is an Italian chef is a natural leader and favored by Mr. Brown to hold fort when he steps out of the class. Along with Max, he often cooks up plans to put his ‘Professori’ into trouble. At other times he is busy saying ‘Holy Ravioli’ and ‘Santa Maria’.
Juan is the Spanish bartender who seems to like Mr. Brown a lot and is possibly the weakest student in the class. You could call him Mr. ‘Por Favor’. He is again a very engaging character.
Danielle plays the role of French au pair, who is the beauty in the class and makes no bones of the attention she gets particularly from Giovanni and Max. She is shown to have a crush on Mr. Brown. She seems to speak fairly good English though with a very French accent. The other au pair is the German Anna who is very precise and aggressive with a dim sense of humor.
Ali playing an unemployed Pakistani and Ranjeet playing an Indian Sikh are the traditional ‘Tom and Jerry’ pair in the class.
Taro as a Japanese electronic rep and Su Li as a Chinese secretary always quoting Chairman Mao are two additional stock characters.
Finally we have Jamila who keeps saying ‘Gud Havening’ and always knitting stuff often for her ‘Masterjee’.
This group of working class people driven by the desire of mastering the Queen’s language are quite comic characters who entertained us so well.
I think anyone having English as a second or third language will be well able to relate to their foibles. You just need to take it easy when you hear phrases like ‘Spanish onion’, ‘Italian omelette’…