• I cannot tell you how many times I have come across this kind of thing while traveling our own country. ‘Turn it up’ & Make it bigger’ means the same thing depending on where you are in the country. That word ‘stuff’… yeah it has a huge following of users. LOL

    • Hi Cheryl. Our former students really did have fun with our language. In many ways it made it easier for them not to worry so much about being right with their words all the time. I am a hugh lover of this very useful word,.. LOL

  • LOL!! love the versatile word “stuff” — noun or verb, it’s useful all right! 🙂

    • Hi Meg, It such a great word. It sure does the trick and everyone seems to understand what you’re saying too. 🙂

  • HB

    I love this story. What fun that must have been.

    • Hi HB, It was all that and so much more. 🙂

  • Fun story Susan! Two years ago, I visited my family in Italy. Only one of about 12 people spoke English, and while another one could he chose not to. It’s another story why he only speaks his native Italian. But Ilaria, my father’s cousin’s niece, was terrific at translating back and forth. One night she had a previous commitment and my husband and I must have looked bewildered, and I asked “What do you suggest we do since none of us can speak the other’s language?” It was the BEST suggestion that I was totally prepared to do: share pictures. It was 2 hours of pictures, laughing and learning about ourselves. Thanks for the great snapshot in this story.

    • Hi Patricia, What a wonderful story. Isn’t it funny how we always find a way to communicate, especailly when we are in such great company. I love the picture idea. That was very cool. 🙂

  • Liz

    What a great opportunity to engage with people in this manner – without someone needing to find refuge because of civil unrest. It allows a person to absorb and dream and learn all about stuff! (I had to put that in there someplace.) and reflect on the stuff they feel is important when they return home. There really is so much that we take for granted. Having worked with many immigrants, I have learned that we, at times, value the wrong stuff. Great posr susan, thanks for sharing! xo

    • Hi Liz, It was such a great experience for all concerned. I do agree. we do take much for granted. My brother has lived in many countries for extended period of times and has often said all americans should be required to live in another country to fully appreciate what we have. He believes there would much less complaining and much more cooperation. Thanks and hugs back. 🙂

  • That “stuff” incident is very interesting. In all languages there are some sort of filling words people use without even thinking of it. Very interesting story.

    • Hi Bindu, Thank you. I thinks these words are so much fun, don’t you?

  • Jeannette Paladino

    Susan — what a grand experience you had. The word “stuff” reminds me of the late comedian George Carlin’s famous routine about “stuff.” We get rid of stuff and then add more stuff. It’s hilarious. I just watched in again on YouTube (3.2 million views) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MvgN5gCuLac. Watch if you want a chuckle.

    • Hi Jeannette, I had forgotten about that…. LOL that is just too funny. It certainly does illustrates that words versatility… ROTFL

  • Jeannette beat me in mentioning how this post reminds me of Carlin’s comedy! Language really does shape reality, which is why it would be great if more schools in the USA would teach foreign language at a younger age. It just does so much for the brain!

    • Hi Jeri, I love that rendition by Carlin… LOL. I believe we miss out on allot by not having that as part of our education. 🙂

  • Bethany Lee

    I liked reading this story. Felt like you were telling me directly. When I was a kid, I wanted to be an exchange student. Now that that time has passed, I would like to be a host parent. Reading this makes me think it would be a lot of fun and stuff. 😉

    • Hi Bethany, Thanks so much. I would highly recommend giving this a whorl. There are short term (of a couple of week to a few months) programs to do as a test drive. You would have a blast. 🙂

  • As a High School teacher, it amazes me without fail how fast my exchange students pick up the language and idioms of our zany language. I learn so much from them, as well. I know more about a small eastern European country called Georgia (not Georgia, y’all) because I have had 4 students from there over the past 4 consecutive years. Serbia, China, Japan, Germany, Montenegro, Ukraine…all so wonderful. sometimes I envy people who host exchange students, then I realize that I get it better in some ways because, while I don’t get the depth of the relationship, I get the breadth of more relationships…just don’t say the word “bozo” around a Georgian.

    • Hi Mike, It is just so much fun to have that as an experience, isn’t it. It is so interesting how different words take on a whole new meaning in different languages. Thanks for adding to that list. 🙂

  • I love this stuff. My girls got too much stuff for Christmas. The food I had was good stuff. Every time I read your post I learn so much stuff.

    • LOL.. thanks for adding your thoughts and “stuff” to this post Patrick… 🙂

  • Funny! I like her ease in asking you about “stuff.” It shows you really made her feel comfortable.

    • Ho Leora, Thanks, she was a very special person and one we are so grateful to have had as our first exchange student. 🙂

  • I use the word stuff and assume, which i know you shouldn’t that the context will make it easy for others to understand. There are also words that we use and in the UK that we understand but others stare blankly at us.

    • Hi Susan, That is so true and so easy to forget when in conversation. :-). What are your fill words? 🙂

  • Julie

    What an awesome thing to do. I have considered hosting a student but haven’t yet done it. 🙂

    • Hi Julie, Check it out. I think you would love it. 🙂

  • Kelly Wade

    It’s funny that I actually have thought about that before. In other languages I can only think of the word “things” replacing “stuff”, but “stuff” includes so much more than just tangible items. It must be so cool having different exchange students come and go and continue allowing them to teach you more about yourself. Very cool!

    • Hi Kelly, I agree with you. Stuff just fits so well in so many circumstances. It is such a great word. We had a blast with all our students. It was so worth it in some many, many ways. 🙂

  • thechhicagofilmsnob

    Ah yes, very basic words I’ve been told are problems with foreigners. I used to work for a training company, where I was a copy editor, and one thing they told me in particular is to make sure words like “stuff” were not present. i enjoyed the read though. I hope you and your exchange student continue to have laughs.

    BTW, I’m from LinkedIn and saw your post.

  • Oh pffft where do you want me to start!? Being English in New York! Lets see…a couple that crack me are turlet apparently that means toilet or apparently ‘yous’ mean you in plural here!Fries instead instead of chips, biscuits are not cookies but flaky pastry things… Is the American English complicated? Heck yes! Between the slang and the jargon to words that don’t mean the same! Trust me this comes from someone who thought the biscuits in her KFC box were weird scones and got strange looks from my now husband when I put jam and cream on them ;-D

    • Hi Claire, LOL… I hear you. We certainly have a fluid language, i’ll give you that. Our dictionary expands as a direct result of that. I love your story about the KFC biscuits. I bet he still kids you about it. 🙂

  • Doreen Pendgracs

    Hi Susan: Perfect question!

    In my Toastmasters club, there is a fellow who always says, “stuff like that.” He uses it in the context as to say “etc.” i.e. Bring snacks and stuff like that. We enjoyed chatting and stuff like that. It’s not a phrase I use at all, but he’s in this 30’s and it seems to be something that is common to that age group.

    Sounds like you’re having fun with your exchange students. 🙂

    • Hi Doreen, I get that. It’s a word that can certainly be overused, and at times is. I do use it in casual conversation with family and friends. Outside of that I keep to a minimum or not at all.

      We have been very fortunate to have hosted some great kids from many different countries. We loved it. 🙂

  • Lubna

    I had two American friends (whom I knew only through a travel forum) stay with me and my parents, several years ago. I learnt a couple of new words from them – my favourite – Cool Beans! And I bet they picked up many new words also. It was a fun experience.

    • Hi Lubna, How fun for them and you. I can imagine there was a great many fun exchanges and learned words share by all. 🙂

  • Wow, I’ve never considered how generalized of a word “stuff” is! It’s so common in our language we assume everyone knows it’s just a filler for not having to explain more 🙂

    • Hi Dan, It’s such a common word that we really don’t think about it. It’s fun when you really start to think about how we really use it, isn’t it? 🙂

  • TheGirl

    Linguistic Determinism

  • Devon

    Hmm, my comment disappeared. Delightful story! We had a number of exchange students when I grew up and I was one during high school. My favorite memory was teaching them a super fast card name called “spit.” This was especially challenging with a language barrier!

    • Hi Devon, Weird, Anyway, What a great game that would have been for a non native speaker. It would force you to learn pretty darn fast… LOL. 🙂

      • Devon

        Hi Susan! I think it’s because I joined Disqus and so it erased my initial comment in the sign-up process. Ahh, technology. Always being a friend. 🙂 Teaching my host family’s young children in France was my favorite experience. Eventually, my host mother shoved her daughter out of the way and started playing. It was hilarious.

  • Shirla

    I have a sister in-law who did 6 months in Spain while in college in an attempt to hone her Spanish…sounded like fun! After reading your story, it sounds like a win-win all the way around.

    • Hi Shirla, How fun for your sister-in-law. I’m sure she did just that and the family had a blast having there. 🙂

    • Hi Shirla, How fun for your sister-in-law. I’m sure she did just that and the family had a blast having there. 🙂

  • Pamela Courtney

    Susan, your story is just delightful! It got me to thinking how the early learners in my literacy program sometimes respond to my more abstract vocabulary words. I think “stuff” is truly an abstract concept and I wonder how my little ones would regard it during a lesson. I’ll have to share this story with my teachers and do a little language experiment with them. LOVED this story. No matter the barrier, mutual respect and human kindness are languages that makes us all laugh out loud!

    • Hi Pamela, It pleases me greatly that you enjoyed my story. :-). Please let me know what happened when you share this with your teachers and students. I agree with you, mutual respect and kindness are the languages that matter to most. 🙂

  • Hi There, Thank you for stoping by :-). You’re right, basic words can be at times. I bet that was fun trying to figure out what to replace it with… LOL.

    We and our students had an amzing time and we are still in contact with many of them still today. 🙂

  • Regina

    Interesting story! I wonder where Maria was from? It always amazes me when I see foreigners who are able to pick up English very quickly because I think it is probably one of the hardest languages in the world, simply because it is such a rich amalgam of different languages and there are a bunch of exceptions to every grammar and spelling rule. But I guess that’s also part of what makes it such a flexible and wonderful language. 🙂

    I wonder if your exchange students had any questions about our use of the word “like”? Because in my opinion, that is the ultimate filler word in the English language!

    • Hi Regina, Maria was from Spain. It can certainly be challenge for all the reason you mentioned. But the students loved the way we would use words in such different way. They found it fun.

      They had so many questions I am sure like was among them. 🙂

  • Nice story! Must have been hard for her at the beginning not being fluent. I teach English so I know all about these problems. I just did a post on learning Italian.

    • Hi John, Thank you. It was, but It always amazed me how quickly they assimilated into the language and the culture. 🙂

  • Thanks John, Actually she was fluent, it was just the different use of some word that she found challenging. We had a great time explaining all the nuances to her. :-). Thanks for stopping by. :-)))

  • Carol Covin

    Love the story. We had a foreign student over for dinner once, giving visiting grad students a chance to see what real American homes looked like. We served her a typical American meal, pot roast with roasted potatoes. She looked at her plate and started crying. “What’s wrong?” we asked, distressed. “We can serve something else. We just wanted you to have a typical American meal.” “This is what my grandmother serves us every Sunday. I just realized I’m homesick.” You never know how someone is going to react to what you are trying to do.

    • Hi Carol, What a great story. You are so right. You just never know what someone is thinking and going through in a situation like that. 🙂

  • Daron Henson

    I enjoyed this story. Language his a strange phenomena, it controls the way people interrelate. Communication takes on different forms with the many different languages and dialects that can be found.

    Excellent essay.

    Thank you.

    • Hi Daron, It is indeed and thank you. Thank you for adding to the discussion and stopping by. 🙂

  • Charlotte

    I get that…yep! Stuff is a very good one. Good story reminds me all the questions I had.

    • Hi Charlotte, It is, isn’t it. I do remember all your questions. It was so much fun answering them. 🙂

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