“The First Lesson” is the first episode of the first season of Mind Your Language. It was first broadcast on the 30th of December 1977.
Ali Nadim gets directions to the classroom from Miss Courtney. He heads off for room 5, which is where the EFL (English as a foreign language) class is held, but on the way out he bumps into Jeremy Brown. As Ali heads off, Mr. Brown enters Miss Courtney’s office and introduces himself as the new EFL teacher. Miss Courtney is not happy about this because she dislikes male teachers (especially after Mr. Warburton, the school’s previous EFL teacher, went insane, forcing her to nail down the window frames in his classroom) and specifically asked the local education authority for a female teacher, but she accepts Mr. Brown as a new teacher and gives him the job on a month’s trial.
Mr. Brown goes to his classroom to ask the students their names, nationalities and occupations. Ali and Ranjeet insult each other and Giovanni and Max argue over Danielle, both a sign of things to come. Mr. Brown teaches the students for the first time, starting with the verb “to be”, with some giving correct or wrong answers. As the class ends, Mr. Brown gives them homework on their experience in England and runs out of the classroom, sighing with relief. He encounters Miss Courtney, who asks if he’s giving up his job, to which he sheepishly replies that he can cope with the class. Before he leaves, he suggests that she nail down more of the window frames.
|Maximillian Andreas Archimedes Papandrious||Greek||Shipping office worker at the docks|
|Anna Schmidt||German||Au pair|
|Giovanni Capello||Italian||Chef at Ristorante dei Popoli|
|Ali Nadim||Pakistani||None (formerly employed at the Taj Mahal Tandoori Restaurant in Putney)|
|Ranjeet Singh||Punjabi||London Underground attendant|
|Taro Nagazumi||Japanese||Executive at Bushido Electronics|
|Danielle Favre||French||Au pair|
Ali: Yes please. And I’m hopping to be unrolled.
Miss Courtney: Hopping to be unrolled?
Ali: Like it say in your silly bus.
Miss Courtney: You mean hoping to be enrolled?
Ali: That is what I said, “hopping to be unrolled.”
(Ali accidentally bumps into Jeremy Brown.)
Ali: Oh dearie me! I am not going where I am looking.
Mr. Brown: No, no. I wasn’t looking where I was going.
Ali: That makes the two of us. Excuse me, sir.
Miss Courtney: I am referring to the fact that you are a man. I distinctly requested the local authority to send me a woman teacher, especially in view of what happened with Mr. Warburton.
Mr. Brown: Mr. Warburton?
Miss Courtney: Yes. He was teaching English to foreign students last term. I’m afraid he only lasted a month and then he departed.
Mr. Brown: Dead?
Miss Courtney: Demented. Yes, the strain was too much for him. Typical of the male sex. No stamina. Oh he seemed to be able to cope at first but then one day he just snapped. It was really quite disgusting.
Mr. Brown: Really? What did he do?
Miss Courtney: Climbed out of the classroom window on to the roof, took off all his clothes and stood there stark naked singing “I’ve Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts”.
Mr. Brown: How distressing! Well, uh, there’s no need to worry on my account, I’m not likely to climb out of the classroom window.
Miss Courtney: I know you aren’t.
Mr. Brown: Thank you for your confidence.
Miss Courtney: It’s got nothing to do with confidence. We’ve had the window frames nailed down.
Mr. Brown: I am Brown.
Ali: Oh no. You are committing a mistake.
Mr. Brown: Mistake?
Ali: Yes please. You are not brown, we are brown. You are white.
Mr. Brown: Ah yes, what is your name?
Student: Maximillian Andreas Archimedes Papandrious.
Mr. Brown: I think I’ll just put you down as Max. I take it you’re Greek?
Max: Is right. From Athens.
Mr. Brown: And what is your job?
Max: I walk with sheeps.
Mr. Brown: You walk with sheeps? A shepherd? You work on a farm?
Max: Ah, no no, not farm.
Mr. Brown: But you said you work with sheep.
Max: No no no no, sheeps. Big sheeps. (Makes bullhorn sounds.)
Mr. Brown: Ships.
Max: Yes, ships. Tonkers.
Mr. Brown: Tonkers? Tankers.
(From the deleted scene in which Ranjeet and Ali fight:)
Mr. Brown: There will be no throat-slicing in my class. If you want to do that sort of thing, you should have joined the sports and pastimes.
Mr. Brown: Well, that all depends upon the rate of exchange.
Miss Courtney: I don’t quite follow you.
Mr. Brown: Eh, not all of them had £5 in English money. So I collected £29.50 in sterling and the rest is made up of 2000 yen, 3000 lira, 250 pesetas, 75 drachmas, 50 francs and 12 Deutsche Marks. According to this morning’s financial papers, that should give us a profit of £1045.50.
Miss Courtney: Then I suggest you take it to the bank in the morning and convert it into English currency.
Mr. Brown: Right, I’ll do that.
Mr. Brown: I want you to give me a sentence using “you are”.
Ali: I am.
Mr. Brown: No, not “I am”, “You are”. For example, you are from Pakistan.
Ali: I am from Pakistan.
Mr. Brown: Yes, but now use “you are”.
Ali: But I cannot say you are from Pakistan because you are not, are you?
Mr. Brown: (Sounding slightly annoyed.) Repeat after me, you are English.
Ali: No, no! I am from Pakistan.
Mr. Brown: (Sounding more annoyed.) What am I?!
Ali: You are confusing me.
- This is, along with “Kill or Cure”, one of two episodes from the first three seasons in which neither Gladys nor Sid appear.
- The scene in which Ranjeet and Ali first meet and fight over religious differences (which ends with Mr. Brown saying “Put your knife away and be a good chap and go and sit down.”) was cut from some airings of the episode to avoid controversy.