I remember when I was a kid that I was always very good at English spelling tests. Whilst the other kids would read their lists of assigned words before every test in an effort to remember how to spell difficult words like “cheetah”, or “castle” I would just sit around reading my Enid-Blyton book about assorted children-on-adventures, confident of my abilities to score full marks (I did the same thing for my Chinese spelling tests, except hat usually it was due to anticipation of scoring next to nothing).
And I always used to score full marks, even without studying.
Which is why I remember the very first word I spelt wrong in a test.
It was “pencil”.
I spelt it “p-e-n-s-i-l”, but even as I wrote it down I knew in my heart that it was wrong, that it looked funny, and that I had failed for the first time in my life (if I had known then that it would merely have been the first of a long long list of mistakes, it might have made me feel better. Or worse.)
But it was merely that one word, and disappointed though I was that I had not scored full marks, neither my parents nor I were of the freaky overachiever variety of people, so I continued my non-studying ways for English tests.
This has, in my adulthood, manifested in a rather embarrassing problem. I think possibly because I never took the trouble to consciously think out the combinations of letters required to spell, I cannot spell wthout writing words down. Also, I realize with some dismay that I am having problems with words like “calendar”, “scissors” and (ironically) “misspelt”, because I have seen these words in print misspelt as often as correctly-spelt, making it difficult to recognize the correct form. This would be less embarrassing if I did not so often exhibit an ostensibly high standard of English, for my bluff is called every time I am called upon to spell something.
Of course, no one ever expects me to be able to write in Chinese, so instead they are always impressed when I can spell complicated words involving more than five strokes.