When I was a teenager and learning English as a second language back in Japan, one day, my father shared with me a story about one English test he had taken at secondary school that he had never forgot about.
Located in a big urban city, the secondary school my father attended had a very advanced English education, and soon English became one of his favourite subjects. He would learn the language eagerly at home, trying to find whatever study material was available. Long before the age of the Internet, he even found a way to tune into the radio channel American Forces Network and listened to it with his ears glued to his radio speaker night after night.
At school, his English teacher was a French-Canadian gentleman. Unfortunately, his job description didn’t allow him to teach his mother tongue to the students, but according to my father, he was wonderful at teaching English as well.
One day, they had an English spelling test. When the results came out, the teacher called my father to the front and said to him,
“You were very close to getting the full mark! But you made just one mistake.”
On the test paper, my father had spelled unbrella instead of umbrella.
“Remember, in English, it’s usually m instead of n that precedes b or p!”
His teacher smiled at him as he returned his test paper.
“I was so close to getting the full mark that I’ve never forgot about that test ever since!” said my father to me. “In English, it’s usually m not n that precedes b or p. Remember this!”
It’s funny how somebody’s story can stick in one’s mind forever. Even though I wasn’t the one who took that test, I can never forget about this little incident, and I have certainly never misspelled the term umbrella in my life since I heard my father’s story.