Learning Nugget January 2019

Tales of Three Manmade Barriers


As many of you know, the U.S. government has hit a wall. However, for those of you not in the loop, we’ll give you a little background.

In late 2018, President Trump – a Republican – told the U.S. Congress he would not approve any spending bill unless it allocated over five billion dollars to construct a barrier along the United States’ southern border with Mexico. Congressional Democrats said they wouldn’t pass any bill that included such a wall.

The deadline to pass the spending bill came and went, and on December 22, 2018, a partial government shutdown began. It’s still ongoing, and many government employees are without work and/or pay and many federal services – like staffing and maintenance of National Parks—simply aren’t available.

With the government of the world’s largest economy at an impasse over a wall, we at TIP TOP thought it would be interesting to take a look at the impact large, manmade barriers have had across history. Of course, there are many more than we could talk about in just one Learning Nugget, so we’ve chosen three that we think you might not know much about. So, settle in, and we hope you learn something new.


The Amorite Wall: Ancient Mesopotamia

Around 2000 BC, the leaders of the Sumerian city of Ur (located in modern-day Iraq) had a problem. A nomadic tribe – the Amorites – were growing in power in their region and coming ever closer to their city. With few natural borders to keep the Amorites out, they decided to build one themselves. The result was what is known as the Amorite Wall today, a barrier over 250 kilometers in length that crossed the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.

As impressive as it was, the wall did little to protect Ur’s territory. The wall didn’t connect to other barriers at its ends and could simply be walked around by invading forces. Also, the wall was so long that Ur couldn’t keep enough troops along it to protect it at every point, making it vulnerable to being climbed over or torn down. In just a few years, the Amorites were in Ur’s territory, over time weakening its power just as the city’s leaders had feared. Around 250 years after the wall’s construction, Ur fell to the forces of another civilization, the Elamites—an event historians say ended Sumerian civilization.


The Long Walls: Athens

The U.S. isn’t the first democratic society to think about walls. In the 400s BCE, Athens – often considered the birthplace of democracy – went through its own wall mania.

After its city walls were destroyed by Persian forces in the Greco-Persian Wars, Athens began to rebuild them after combined Greek militaries1 had finally pushed the Persians back out. While doing this, Athens also began constructing a wall that stretched from the city to a sea port around six kilometers away.

They eventually also constructed a second wall that stretched to a different sea port, making it impossible to access the city unless you were allowed through the wall or came by sea. Afterwards came a third wall that ran behind the first, creating an area where farming could safely take place even if the city came under siege.

The Athenians’ main rival for power in the ancient Greek world, the Spartans, were not pleased with these developments. They were not a democracy and also had a land-based combat force that couldn’t hope to compete with the power of the Athenian navy. With the security of the walls, Athenian power and influence could grow with little fear of attack from outside forces, threatening Sparta’s status in ancient Greece.

It had to do with more than just the walls, but Athens and Sparta eventually went to war with each other. In the wars that followed (the Peloponnesian Wars) the walls did their job and kept the land forces of Sparta out. It wasn’t until Athens overstretched its naval forces and opened itself up to attack by sea that the city fell.

And what was one of the first things the Spartan victors did?

Tear down the walls, of course.


1At the time Greece was not one nation. It was a region made up of various city-states. Those city-states came together to fight off the Persian invaders.


The Dingo Fence: Australia

Imagine a fence going from the coast of Portugal to Moscow, Russia. At 5,614 kilometers, the Dingo Fence in Australia is over 1,000 kilometers longer than thatIt’s the longest fence in the world, and it has one current purpose: to keep wild dogs called dingoes from eating farmers’ sheep.

The fence was originally built in the late 1800s to stop the spread of rabbits – a species not native to Australia. It didn’t work, but soon some saw the possibility of expanding the fence to keep Australia’s apex predator, the dingo, away from their livestock. The fence is still maintained by Australia’s government today, though it is only partly effective and the subject of some debate.

For one, some dingoes have gotten through holes in the fence and still live on the side they are meant to stay out of. Another problem is that the dingo is the apex predator of Australia, and animals on the continent have coevolved with it over the last four centuries. Without its presence in its normal habitat, biodiversity has suffered, leaving some species endangered.


Final Thoughts
From just these few examples, it’s easy to see the long life artificial barriers have had in human history. They are almost always made to ward off attacks, whether from armies or wild animals, but none of them come without problems. They could be ineffective like Ur’s, a source of conflict like Athens’, or the cause for the decline of an ecosystem, like Australia’s.It is likely due to awareness of such possible problems that the majority of U.S. voters oppose Trump’s wall. Perhaps they agree with a leading Democratic politician who said “the symbol of America should be the Statue of Liberty, not a 30-foot [9-meter] wall.”For our part, we at TIP TOP definitely believe that it’s always better to look for ways to create fruitful conversations between societies rather than ways to cut them off from one another.


Listen to the Learning Nugget and to the correct pronunciations read by our trainer Alex in the following audio: Alex on „Tales of Three Manmade Barriers“




Or in the YouTube video and listen to the text and read it at the same time




manmade barrier – von Menschen errichtete Barriere

hit a wall – in eine Sackgasse gelangen

approve any spending bill – Kostenplan zustimmen

unless – es sei denn

allocate – zuteilen

pass the spending bill – Kostenplan verabschieden

partial shutdown – teilweise Stilllegung

government employees – Regierungsangestellte

staffing and maintenance – Personal und Intstandhaltung

at any impasse over – in einer Pattsituation sein, wegen

settle in – darauf einstellen

BC (before Christ) –  vor Christus

nomadic tribe – Nomadenstamm

the Amorites – Amurriter

do little to protect – wenig beitragen, um zu schützen

didn’t connect to other – war nicht mit anderen verbunden

by invading forces – durch eindringende Truppen

making it vulnerable to – machten es zum wunden Punkt…

torn down (tear – tore – torn)  – niedergerissen, abgetragen

weaken – schwächen

fall to forces – zum Opfer fallen

had feared – hatten befürchtet

consider the birthplace of democracy – als Geburtsort der Demokratie gesehen

wall mania – Mauerwahn

push back out – zurück vertreiben

stretched from … to – sich erstrecken von … bis

to a sea port – Seehafen

come by sea – über das Meer kommen

farming – Landwirtschaft, Ackerbau

take place – stattfinden

come under siege – belagert werden

Spartans – Spartaner

land based combat force – Bodentruppen

threatening – drohen, bedrohen

overstretch its naval forces – seine Seestreitkräfte ausdehnen

naval forces – Seestreitkräfte

Spartan victors – Spartanische Sieger

tear down the walls –  Mauern einreißen

wild dogs – wilde Hunde

dingoes – Dingos

spread of – die Verbreitung von

not native to – nicht beheimatet in

apex predator – Spitzenprädator

is still maintained – wird immer noch aufrechterhalten

have coevolved with – sich gemeinsam entwickelt

over the last four centuries – in den letzten vier Jahrhunderten

leave species endangered – vom Aussterben bedrohte Arten/Spezies hinterlassen

artificial barriers – künstliche Barrieren

ward off attacks – Angriffe abwähren

it is likely – es ist wahrscheinlich

to oppose sth. – sich widersetzen

TIP TOP wishes Merry Christmas


NIC: Hey Alex, have you got a favourite Xmas story or poem?

ALEX: Hi Nic, yes actually, I have It’s called „A Visit from St. Nicholas“


NIC: I don’t think so. How does it go?

ALEX: Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house

Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;

NIC: Wow do lots of Americans have mice in their houses?

ALEX: No, Nic, they don’t. Anyway;

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,

In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

The children were nestled all snug in their beds;

While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;

NIC: Alex, sorry to interrupt you again but, what exactly is a sugar plum?

ALEX: Eerm, I’m not sure, some kind of candy I think. Anyway;

And mamma in her ‚kerchief, and I in my cap,

Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap,

NIC: I didn’t know American’s hibernated in winter like bears!

ALEX: No, we don’t. Anyway;

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,

I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.

Away to the window I flew like a flash,

Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

NIC: Sorry, but what is a sash?

ALEX: It’s the old kind if windows they had in Victorian times. Anyway;

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow,

Gave a lustre of midday to objects below,

When what to my wondering eyes did appear,

But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny rein-deer,

With a little old driver so lively and quick,

I knew in a moment he must be St. Nick.

NIC: Wow, I’m a saint ?

ALEX: Well, it isn’t talking about you.

NIC: But you said Saint Nic!

ALEX: Do you want to hear the rest?

NIC: Yes, sorry. Carry on!

ALEX: More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,

And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:

„Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now Prancer and Vixen!

On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donner and Blitzen!

To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!

Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!“

As leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,

When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;

So up to the housetop the coursers they flew

With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too—

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof

The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.

As I drew in my head, and was turning around,

Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

NIC: I always wondered how he did that without setting off the burglar alarms.

ALEX: He’s magic. Anyway;

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,

And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;

A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,

And he looked like a pedler just opening his pack.

His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples , how merry!

His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!

His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,

And the beard on his chin was as white as the snow;

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,

And the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath;

NIC: Santa Claus smokes?

ALEX: It’s an old poem, I guess if it had been written today he wouldn’t. Anyway;

He had a broad face and a little round belly

That shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,

And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;

A wink of his eye and a twist of his head

Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,

And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,

And laying his finger aside of his nose,

NIC: Inside his nose? That’s horrible!

ALEX: Aside. You know, on the side of his nose! Anyway;

And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,

And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.

But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight—

“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

NIC: Yeah, that’s lovely. So what do you want for Xmas this year?

ALEX: The older I get the more I realise that what’s important isn’t toys, or gifts, it’s having time together with the people I love.

NIC: Me too. I guess some things aren’t that different between Britain and America! Well have a wonderful Christmas and I wish you lots of special moments and happy memories with the ones you love.

ALEX: Merry Xmas to you too.

ALL: Merry Christmas everyone, from all of us here at TIP TOP!

Who’ll deliver the goods?

Dwindling numbers of German truck drivers a cause for concern


Take your car onto any German highway at almost any time of day, and you’re nearly certain to see a line of semitrucks in the right lane . Still, as hard as it may be to believe, Germany is facing a growing shortage of truck drivers . The International Road Transport Union (IRU) reports that “over the next 10-15 years around 40% of German truck drivers will retire , which, given current trends , will create a shortfall of 150,000 drivers.”

While you may think this is mainly the problem of trucking and logistics companies, it actually affects everyone in the country. The reason is pretty simple; almost everything you buy – clothes, groceries , fuel, and plenty more – is delivered by truck. A growing shortage of truck drivers means that many of the things we a title=“abhängig sein von“> depend on may simply be unavailable when we need them.

This growing problem has multiple causes. Truck driving is becoming increasingly regulated and sophisticated, and that means potential drivers need to be willing and able to go through rigorous training before taking on the job. However, with giant corporations like Amazon having the clout to make logistics companies settle for ever-lower profit margins, wages in the field are both low and relatively stagnant. That makes it very hard to attract people to a profession that keeps them away from family and friends for much of the year and often results in the need to sleep in the confined space where you work.

Given those circumstances, it’s little wonder that as the aging population of professional truck drivers retire, there are fewer younger people willing to fill the spots they’re leaving open. According to a story from Die Welt, around 30,000 truck drivers retired in 2016 while just 16,211 new drivers earned their licenses.

Some believe that this could do more than just inconvenience us in the mall or at the supermarket. A story from Foreign Policy suggested this problem poses an international security risk:

“…the smooth functioning of society now depends on a shrinking corps of underpaid, and clearly underappreciated, workers. If drivers decided to go on strike, or retire en masse, countries would quickly run out of food and gasoline – causing social and economic crisis and leaving them dangerously vulnerable.”

Just as there are a multitude of reasons for this issue, there are also a multitude of suggestions for how to address it. The IRU suggests a combination of raising wages, improving working conditions, and reaching out to groups who do not traditionally become truck drivers, like women and minorities, could help. They mention that the recent influx of immigrants to the EU could be a source of new truck drivers, as well.

Ultimately, only time will tell if this is a problem that gets solved or gets worse. But maybe next time you get stuck behind a big, slow truck on your way to work, you’ll realize that it’s not just there to annoy you but is actually helping to fill a vital role in modern society.



Listen to the Learning Nugget and to the correct pronunciations read by our trainer Alex in the following audio: Alex on „Who’ll deliver the goods?




Or in the YouTube video and listen to the text and read it at the same time

Trick or treat, give us something good to read!

Clouds passing quickly over a full, yellow moon. Bare tree limbs waving in a bitter wind over an ancient graveyard. Children dressed like goblins, princesses, and Star Wars characters ringing doorbells and asking for candy before going home to be pleasantly frightened by their parents’ best ghost stories. These are just a few images that might come into a North American’s head at the mention of the word “Halloween.”

As the tradition of Halloween—which always takes place on October 31—has leaked slowly into some European countries, many may think it’s purely a creation of the United States and Canada. However, its roots go back centuries (to areas that are now Europe, in fact), and in this month’s Learning Nugget, we explore the ancient origins of this holiday that is slowly gaining popularity in Germany.

Samhain: Halloween’s oldest ancestor
For the ancient Celts who lived in present-day Ireland, U.K., and parts of France, facing the darkness, cold, and common food shortages of winter was a frightening prospect. In order to prepare themselves for it, they had a yearly festival at the end of October: Samhain (pronounced sah-wen).

Samhain included a feast to celebrate the harvest, but the Celts also believed it was the day when the border between the spirit world and the human world was at its thinnest. Beings like ghosts and fairies could walk the earth, and druids (Celtic priests) could more easily communicate with them, helping them to make prophecies about the coming year. This belief about the nearness of spirits explains why modern-day Halloween is associated with ghosts and other fanciful beings.

What’s with the costumes?
Another key feature of Halloween is the costumes. This, too, stems from Celtic tradition. Because the end of October was when ghouls, goblins, and fairies could be found around any bend in the road, it was important not to be recognized as a human they might want to take back with them to the spirit world. So, people began wearing masks when they left their houses to convince the spirits they were just one of the gang.

How did “Samhain” become “Halloween”?
Eventually, the pagan religions of Celtic areas began to be replaced by Christianity. The church likely wanted to replace the pagan celebration of Samhain with a Christian holiday, and by 1000 CE had established the observance of All Saints Day on November 1 and All Souls Day on November 2. All Saints Day was dedicated to remembering all of the dead saints and martyrs of the Christian faith, and All Souls Day was dedicated to remembering all dead.

An old English word for saint is “hallow,” so All Saints Day was also known as All Hallows. October 31, the traditional day of Samhain, began to be called “All Hallows Eve” (“eve” meaning “the day before”). With time, these words were contracted into “Halloween.”

The start of trick-or-treating
“Trick-or-treating” is the name for what children do when they go around gathering candy on Halloween. It comes from the phrase “trick or treat?” that they say at each door. While this phrase implies that the person at the door can either give out treats or be the victim of a trick, the tradition of asking for food on Halloween did not begin with such sinister connotations.

The custom goes back to an All Soul’s Day practice. Richer families would bake small, cookie-like cakes called soul cakes. The poor would come to their doors asking for these cakes, and in exchange, they would pray for the souls of the richer families’ dead relatives.

Happy Halloween!
There’s no denying Halloween has changed a lot since the time when ancient Celts gathered around bonfires to celebrate Samhain or Christians paid tribute to the dead on All Saints Day and All Souls Day. Still, it’s interesting to think about how modern traditions harken back to such old customs.

Costumes, now meant to amuse, astound, or attract other people, were originally worn in order to not be stolen away by otherworldly creatures. Today’s house parties are yesterday’s great Celtic harvest feasts at bonfires. A huge portion of annual U.S. candy sales— last year’s Halloween candy sales in the U.S. totaled around four billion dollars — is owed to a medieval custom of preparing cakes to distribute to the poor in exchange for prayers.

Doubtlessly, if the holiday continues to gain popularity in Germany, the country will begin to add its own twists to the revelries ( “Süßes oder Saures?” is already the German “trick or treat”). But even if you decide Halloween isn’t your kind of holiday, we hope that you enjoy these last fall days before the cold and dark—and maybe a few ghosts—settle in.



Listen to the Learning Nugget and to the correct pronunciations read by our trainer Alex in the following audio: Alex on „Trick or treat, give us something good to read!




Or in the YouTube video and listen to the text and read it at the same time


passing quickly – schnell vorüber ziehen

Bare tree limbs – kahle Baumäste

ancient graveyards – uralte Friedhöfe

few images – einige Bilder

to take place on – statt finden am

leaked slowly into – langsam durch gesickert nach

it’s purely a creation of – es ist nur eine Kreation von

roots go back centuries – die Wurzeln gehen Jahrzente zurück

explore – auskundschaften

slowly gaining popularity – langsam an Beliebtheit gewinnen

Celts – die Kelten

common food shortages – die gewöhnliche Lebensmittelknappheit

frightening prospects – beängstigende Aussichten

in order – um

celebrate the harvest – die Ernte feiern

fanciful beings – fantasievolle Lebenswesen

key feature of – Hauptmerkmal von

to stem from – stammen von

bend in the road – die Kurve in der Straße

be recognized – erkannt werden

to wear masks – Masken tragen

convince the spirits – die Geister überzeugen

eventually – schließlich

pagan religions – heidnische Religionen

be replaced by – ersetzt werden durch

dead saints – tote Heilige

dedicated to remembering – war dazu da, um sich zu erinnern

Christian faith – christliche Glaube

contracted into – zusammen ziehen ins, hier: eins werden

to gather – sammeln

victim of a trick – Opfer eines Tricks

sinister connotation – böse Konnotation, Bedeutung

custom goes back to – der Brauch geht zurück auf

in exchange – im Gegenzug

pray for – beten für

there is no denying – es lässt sich nicht abstreiten

to gather around bonfires – sich ums Lagerfeuer versammeln

traditions harken back to – die Traditionen reichen zurück bis…

astound – erstaunen

to distribute to – verteilen an

four billion – vier Milliarden

doubtlessly – zweifelsohne

settle in – hier: einziehen

“Fall” in love with a new game!

The temperatures are falling, and it’s starting to feel more and more like Fall in Germany. With all the cakes being made from this year’s huge fruit harvest, the new wine, the onion cake, the Oktoberfest beers, we thought people might be looking for a fun way to burn off a few calories. That’s why this month’s Learning Nugget is focused on an outdoor sport that anyone can play, but many people haven’t heard of: disc golf.

Disc golf started out as a game people played around their neighborhoods or in nearby natural areas. They would take a frisbee like you might toss at the beach or in a park and then pick an object as a goal, such as a tree, a pole, or a rock. Just like golfers try to get a ball into a hole in the fewest strokes possible, they wanted to hit the object with the frisbee in the fewest throws possible. This way of playing—with frisbees and natural objects as targets—was how the first known disc golf tournament was played, taking place in California in 1969.

Over time, more and more people have become interested in the sport, and it has changed quite a bit. One big difference is that disc golf is now played with metal basket as targets (see picture) rather than objects. Another is that the company that owns the “Frisbee” trademark—Wham-O—refused to let the sport be called “frisbee golf,” so the sport became known as “disc golf” and its frisbees as “discs.” Today, specialized disc golf discs have smaller circumferences and narrower profiles than typical frisbees, enabling them to be thrown farther and at higher speeds. Some professional disc golfers (yes, they exist) can throw over 150 meters and at speeds over 100 km/h.

Despite these changes, the basics of the game are still the same. Players begin a “hole” (a term borrowed from golf) by throwing from a tree toward a basket. Tees can be made of brick, concrete, or artificial turf or simply marked on the ground. After their first throws, players each go to where their disc landed and throw again towards the basket. The person farthest from the basket always throws first. This process is repeated until all discs are in the basket. Players then move on to the next hole. The player who needed the fewest throws to play all holes on the course is the winner.

Though this may be the first time you’ve heard of disc golf, it’s actually played across Europe and is growing at a very fast rate on the continent – especially in Scandinavia. The reasons for its growth likely have something to do with how it differs from the golf most people know.

Unlike golf, disc golf can be played in the woods, so it’s much easier to find areas to create courses. Because of this, many disc golf courses are in public parks and are free to play. While golf requires many expensive clubs, disc golf discs can cost between 10-20€, and though serious players have many discs, recreational players don’t need more than one or two.

If taking a little walk in the park while playing this game sounds to you like a good thing to do on an autumn day, we have some tips for how you can do just that. If you happen to be near the Bad Kreuznach area where TIP TOP’s office is located, the nearest courses are a six-hole course in Mainz’s Volkspark and a 21-hole course in Rüsselsheim’s Ostpark. Both are free to play. For those farther away, you can find courses using this website:https://www.dgcoursereview.com.

Also, the game can be played with normal frisbees, but you’ll likely have more fun with discs made for the sport. For the price, one of the best discs for beginners you can buy is called the Roc, made by a disc golf company named Innova. Generally, they cost between €10 and €15.

So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and throw some discs!



Listen to the Learning Nugget and to the correct pronunciations read by our trainer Alex in the following audio: Alex on „“Fall” in love with a new game!




Or in the YouTube video and listen to the text and read it at the same time


highlight something – etwas hervorheben

along with the normal text – neben dem normalen Text

native English speaker – Muttersprachler

aimed at + Verb+ing form – darauf abzielen

practice that skill – diese Fertigkeit zu üben

fall in love – Fall – sich verlieben, Wortspiel mit Herbst

huge fruit harvest – reichhaltige Ernte

burn off calories – Kalorien verbrennen

toss – werfen

pole – Stange, Pfosten

in the fewest strokes – mit den geringsten Zügen

disc golf tournament – Discgolf Turnier

over time – mit der Zeit

while golf requires – während für Golf … erforderlich ist

metal baskets – Metallkörbe

rather than – eher als

smaller circumferences – kleinerer Umfang

narrower profiles – engere Profile

enable s.b/sth – j-m, etwas befähigen

be thrown farther – weiter geworfen zu werden

at higher speeds – zu höherer Geschwindigkeit

despite sth. – trotz

from a tee – von der Markierung/Abschlag

fewest throws – die wenigsten Würfe

unlike golf – anders als Golf

recreational players – Hobbyspieler

a six-hole course – 6 Loch Platz

The Nahe rocks


Take a few steps out of TIP TOP’s office, and you’ll get a magnificent view of a famous site in the Bad Kreuznach area: the Rheingrafenstein. This rock formation has many reasons for its fame. It has a 1000-year-old castle perched on its peak which legend says was built by the Devil himself. It has a remarkable, rusty red hue. Also, its exposed stone sides offer such a contrast from its neighboring tree-covered hills that it begs the question, “How did that get there?”
The answer to this query not only illuminates the history of one rock formation. It also explains why — despite its diminutive size and lack of notoriety — the Nahe wine region where both the Rheingrafenstein and TIP TOP’s office sit is one of Germany’s most interesting.

Just like every part of the world, the Nahe has seen its fair share of changes over the past few hundred million years. At various points in time it has been a sea, a desert, and a tropical river valley. However, the red rock that makes up the Rheingrafenstein — as well as the nearby Rotenfels — originates from a time some 290 million years ago. At that time turbulent forces under the earth caused frequent, massive earthquakes, and lava flowed freely across the area. According to Weinland Nahe e.V., “layers of lava stretched over several hundred square kilometers and were up to 300 meters thick.”
The red stone that makes up the Rheingrafenstein is a result of the Nahe’s volcanic heritage. The specific name of the stone is red porphyry. It’s an igneous rock — a type of rock formed when molten rock cools and crystallizes. And, if you want to get really nerdy, it’s specifically an extrusive igneous rock, which means that it cooled outside rather than inside the earth’s crust (if it cools inside the earth’s crust, it’s intrusive).

It’s amazing sometimes what you can learn by exploring the history of what’s just past your doorstep, and we hope you’ve enjoyed learning something about the little corner of the world TIP TOP calls home. Also, with summer just around the corner, you might want to take a holiday to see (or drink) what we’ve talked about here.

If so, here’s a hot tip. This loop trail offers wonderful views of the Nahe valley and leads to both the ruins of Rheingrafenstein Castle and the famous Rotenfels — the largest cliff-face between the Alps and Norway.
Whether you spend your long warm, summer days exploring the Nahe, lazing on a beach, or just relaxing at home, we hope you have a great time. TIP TOP’s Learning Nugget will be back after the summer holidays on Thursday 16 August.



Listen to the Learning Nugget and to the correct pronunciations read by our trainer Alex in the following audio: Alex on „The Nahe Rocks




Or in the YouTube video and listen to the text and read it at the same time

The Great Wall of China? The Pyramids of Giza? No! It’s Liverpool!


The name conjures up a thousand images – the Beatles, Liverpool football club, a glorious past as trading port and industrial city, not one, but two majestically different Cathedrals, scouse, fish and chips and of course the famous ferry across the Mersey.

Standing on the quay in Liverpool the seagulls crying, the cold wind off the Irish Sea ruffling your hair,gazing into the swirling grey waters of the River Mersey, you can imagine what this old city has seen and the stories it can tell. The smells, sights and sounds of tall sailing boats docking with spices, cotton and tobacco from the Caribbean in 1760. Emotional goodbyes as scruffy families left to find new beginnings in America – in the 19th century several million emigrants sailed from Liverpool to the rapidly developing “New World”. The names of men, women and children read out from a list of missing passengers, many from Liverpool, never to return after the Titantic’s fateful maiden voyage in 1912.


A cultural renaissance

Like the Great Wall of China and the Pyramids of Giza, Liverpool is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Over the past fifteen years the city has undergone a thrilling renaissance. The once bustling port area, which had become rundown and delapidated, has been transformed into a world class cultural centre with the best collection of museums and galleries outside London, including the Tate Gallery of Modern Art, The Merseyside Maritime Museum and the fantastic new Museum of Liverpool opened in 2011. The beautiful old red brick warehouses of the Albert Dock, the majestic Pier Head and Liver Buildings and the stunning modern architecture attract thousands of visitors every year bringing back life and laughter to Liverpool’s waterside. Alongside the museums, there are dozens of new shops, buzzing restaurants, hip hotels and trendy pubs where you can sit and enjoy a pint inside or outside, rain or shine.


Scouse or eels?

The local people are known as Liverpudlians or “Scousers”. This is a reference to “scouse”, a tasty stew which was brought over by the Irish who emigrated to Liverpool in the 19th and 20th centuries. The word “scouse” is also used to describe the famous Liverpool accent which is often tricky for foreigners, made all the more difficult by a wicked sense of local humour! But in general people are polite, friendly and open and will often call total strangers “luv”, whether you’re a man or woman.

The name of the city, Liverpool, is thought to come from the Old English “lifer”, meaning thick or muddy water, and “pol”, meaning a pool or stream. Other origins of the name have been suggested, including “Elverpool”, a reference to the large number of eels in the Mersey, which once served as an important food source for local people.


Liverbirds – keeping a watch

Standing at the pierhead, watching the Mersey ferry boats come and go, you might look up to see the “Liverbirds” perched on top of the Royal Liver Building. The copper cormorant-like birds, turned green with verdigris in the moist sea air, are a symbol of the city and can be seen on the coat of arms and of course on the badge of Liverpool FC. According to popular legend, the birds are a male and female pair: the female looking out to sea, waiting for the seamen to return home safely, and the male looking in to the city, watching over the seamen’s families or “making sure that the pubs are open”, whichever version you wish to believe!


Two cathedrals

The thousands of migrants and sailors passing through the port of Liverpool resulted in a religious diversity that is still apparent today. The city is home to the oldest Black African community in Britain and the oldest Chinese community in Europe. Liverpool is also known to be England’s most Catholic city, due to the large number of Irish people who arrived and settled there.

Liverpool’s wealth as a port city enabled the construction of two enormous cathedrals. The Anglican Cathedral, which was designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott and, with a length of 189m, is the longest cathedral in the world and the more modern Roman Catholic Metropolitan Cathedral completed in 1967. The road running between the two cathedrals is called Hope Street, a coincidence which pleases believers. The Catholic Cathedral is a title=“liebevoll auch … genannt“>affectionately known as “Paddy’s Wigwam” due to its shape and the large number of Irish in the congregation.


“She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah!”

The Fab Four are probably one of Liverpool’s most famous exports. The band, founded in 1960, soared to fame with their charateristic mop-top hairstyles creating Beatlemania worldwide. If you’re in Liverpool you can pop into the original Cavern Club on Mathew Street where the Beatles first played, grab a beer and enjoy some live music. Or visit “The Beatles Story” a musical museum experience dedicated to the band. And you can still hug Ringo, Paul, John and George! There is a life-size bronze of the boys down by the Mersey.


A remarkable maritime history

Liverpool was home to both the Cunard and White Star Shipping Lines, which competed strongly in the 1920s for the Atlantic passenger route hoping to get the journey time from Southampton to New York down to under seven days. The Titanic was built by White Star and registered in Liverpool. She sailed from Southampton in April 1912 on her maiden voyage and was considered unsinkable. Everyone knows the tragic story of her collision with an iceberg in the North Atlantic where 1517 lives were lost in the icy water. You can find out all about the Titanic at the Merseyside Maritime Museum in Liverpool.


The slave trade

Another fascinating and sobering theme covered at the Maritime Museum is the slave trade. An excellent exhibition tells the history of Liverpool’s initial growth as a port in the 18th century based on the sinister triangular trade of goods and slaves. In Liverpool ships were loaded with textiles, guns, iron and alcohol. They sailed to Africa where they traded the goods for slaves, ivory and gold. They then continued to the Americas or the West Indies where the slaves were sold or exchanged for goods, such as sugar, coffee and tobacco. Throughout the entire period of the British slave trade, Liverpool’s ships delivered over one million slaves to the New World, although relatively few slaves ever came to Liverpool. This continued to be a lucrative business until “The Slave Trade Act” was passed in 1807 abolishing this cruel and brutal practice.


The industrial revolution

In the 19th century, Liverpool rose to become, after London, the second port of the British Empire and one of the greatest cities in the world. This was primarily due to her role as the main “western gateway” for the import of raw materials (cotton, coal, sugar, timber and grain) and the export of the finished goods of the industrial revolution, which was then taking place in the mills and factories of Lancashire, Yorkshire and the Midlands. Many of the majestic buildings you see on the waterfront, like the Royal Liver Building, were built by rich merchants, shipping companies and industrialists.

As you can see there is so much to learn and love about Liverpool – its remarkable history, culture and people – we could go on and on! So why not go to this beautiful and exciting city and discover the scouse and the Scousers for yourself!

It’s well worth a visit!

All Double Dutch and upside down?


“That wazzock dared to gazump me; I’m gobsmacked by this sticky wicket full of codswallop that’s gone pear-shaped!”

This sentence may not sound serious, but the situation that it describes is! The person is talking about the negotiations involved in buying a house. Translated into standard English, it would be something like, “That idiot dared to offer more money for the house after my offer had already been accepted; I’m shocked by this tricky situation full of nonsense that’s gone seriously wrong!”

It sounds so peculiar because it is full of words, with origins ranging from the 1700s to the 1980s, that have two qualities in common: they’re all rather silly-sounding and they’re all British English.

British English is full of whimsical terms like these. They reflect the UK’s cultural appreciation of wit, a long tradition of literary inventiveness and Britain’s fluctuating global influence over the centuries. As English is largely a monosyllabic language (come, go, take, big, laugh, etc.) word games and rhymes are made relatively easy. Especially characteristic of these language formations is the way they reflect an aversion to taking things too seriously and the common use of humour in British social interaction. This humour is of a particular kind: self-deprecating and given to understatement and irony.

So it’s not surprising that this national trait has made its way into the language. Romantic activities (like “snog” and “bonk”) are spoken of in childish terms. Classic dishes are made to sound deliberately unappetising, ”toad in the hole”, “bubble and squeak” and “spotted dick”. And there’s a healthy appetite for nonsensical ambiguity, for example, “ladybird” instead “ladybug” which is the more logical word used in the USA.

There’s a long tradition in British English of inventing words just for the fun of it.

According to linguist David Crystal, linguistic inventiveness, particularly of a playful kind, seems to have peaked in the Elizabethan era. This is partly due to the enduring influence of wordsmiths like Shakespeare and his fellow dramatists. At this time, Crystal says, “there were more people writing, with pressure to produce new plays to feed the daily demands of the new theatres. And there were no dictionaries to act as a stabilising influence.” This created a fantastic climate of lexical creativity. Since Shakespeare, British writers from Charles Dickens and Lewis Carroll to JK Rowling have continued to enliven and enrich the nation’s vocabulary.

Here are 20 very silly-sounding British English words which you might like to test on your friends or throw into an English conversation to liven up your day and make people smile. Have fun!

higgledy-piggledy – muddled up, in a mess

barmy – crazy, insane, mad

squiffy – slightly drunk

odds and sods (also bits and bobs) – useless objects, various things

chuffed – proud of something or someone

a quid – a pound (£)

chinwag – to have a good chat

codswallop – complete nonsense, “You’re talking codswallop!”

doddle – something is very easy, “It’s a doddle.”

fiddly – if something is complicated, difficult to operate

grotty – unpleasant, dirty or of poor quality

peckish – moderately hungry

a moggy – a cat (usually not a pedigree cat)

hullaballoo – a fuss, a commotion, a disturbance

wobbly – something or someone that is unstable or unsteady

wonky – something which is not straight

stroppy – in a bad mood or temper

yob, yobbo – young troublemaker (origin: boy spelt backwards)

to be flabbergasted – to be amazed, astonished, stunned

argy-bargy – a noisy disagreement ranging from a verbal dispute to outright fighting.

Double Dutch – unverständliche Sprache, Kauderwelsch




Get further information by our trainer Lis and listen to the correct pronunciations of those words mentioned above in the following audio:  Lis on „All Double Dutch and upside down

Misaotra betsaka


Madagascar, off the east coast of Africa, is the fourth largest island on earth.
A jewel in the Indian Ocean, it is an incredible place with vibrant colours, stunning landscapes and unique and fascinating wildlife. The people divide into eighteen tribal groups each with their own traditions. The country has a varied and interesting history of indigenous kingdoms with powerful rulers and later French colonial occupation. The Malagasy culture is very rich in language, art and music and, alongside Christian and Islamic faiths, the people still practice their own ancient religion with its traditional ceromonies and beliefs.

But for most people in Madagascar, life is not easy. It is one of the most under developed countries in the world with the majority living in desperate poverty. Basics that we take for granted, like clean water, nutritious food, education, healthcare, housing, transport and communication, are not available to all. People die from diseases which have long since been eradicated in the West, like polio, malaria, diphtheria and even the plague. And of course the most vulnerable are the young with approximately 5 children in 100 not reaching their first birthday and many more dying before the age of six. Every second child is undernourished and there are just 16 doctors per 100,000 people!

When visiting Madagascar, Tanja Hock, a German midwife and emergency medic, experienced at first hand the problems which many Malagasy face. She realised that lives could easily be saved or dramatically improved by providing emergency treatment and basic health services, especially in isolated rural communities. And it was from this strong desire to help people and to change lives that “Mobile Hilfe Madagaskar e.V.” (MHM), a non-profit organisation, was born.

Over the past ten years the charity has grown to encompass a clinic in Ambovo, an ambulance vehicle providing accident and emergency services, a mobile dentist unit, a mobile obstetrics unit and an ultra-light aircraft to reach distant villages. The organsation’s main aim is to bring basic and emergency healthcare to as many people as possible with a special focus on obstetrics, pre and postnatal care and family planning. It also offers training for local people and employs 13 Malagasy staff some as qualified doctors, dentists and midwives; others responsible for hygiene, security, technical aspects and organsiation.

MHM works together with German doctors and other non-profit organisations. It is entirely funded by charitable donations and is supported by numerous dedicated volunteers both in Germany and Madagascar. For 2018 MHM has an ambitious new project. The group are planning to extend their existing clinic in Ambovo to create an additional hospital specialising in emergency care and surgery for expectant mothers. A training centre is also included in the plan offering doctor and midwifery qualification courses for local people. Just €300,000 is needed to build the whole hospital and to equip it!

Seven years ago, when Beatrice Müser returned to Madagascar with her family for a short visit, she met Tanja Hock in Antananarivo in person. Beatrice was very impressed by Tanja’s work and by her vision for the future and has been supporting MHM ever since. In December, as an alternative to sending Christmas cards and gifts to its customers, TIP TOP English made a donation towards the new hospital. If you would like to find out more about MHM and their projects or offer your financial or practical support please visit: www.mobile-hilfe-madagaskar.de

As the African proverb says, “A lot of small people, in a lot of small places taking a lot of small steps can change the face of the world.” Let’s make a difference together!

Misaotra betsaka

Whether it’s a frying pan, a wooden toy, a coloured pencil or even a jar of face cream ….!


Whether it’s a frying pan, a wooden toy, a coloured pencil or even a jar of face cream ….!”

… the label “Made in Germany” is always eye-catching! Instantly recognisable as a symbol of high quality, durability and precision. But did you know that “Made in Germany” is actually made in Britain!

Back in the 1850s, despite a skilled labour force, good vocational training and strong work ethics, Germany still lagged behind other industrial nations like Britain, France and the USA. At this time, Germany manufactured and exported mostly metal products, such as knives, scissors, cutlery and tools. These were sold at a low price and were seen to be of inferior quality. German entrepreneurs also practiced industrial espionage – they stole ideas, openly copied products, engaged in counterfeiting and forged quality-seals.

The market was flooded with mass-produced, cheap German goods which started to have a impact on the British economy and on employment. The British were not amused, and said – enough is enough! In 1887 they passed a new labelling law which dictated that imported items must be marked with their country of origin. This applied to all trading nations but was especially aimed at Germany. The idea was to protect British products from competition. “Made in Germany” was seen as a warning, to scare consumers and to create a patriotic feeling amongst Britons to “buy British.”

At this time, Germany was an aggressive emerging economy with ambitions to become an economic superpower. Britain’s scheme to stop it, with the “Made in Germany” badge, seemed like a clever idea but it backfired dramatically and actually had the opposite effect!

The new labelling law and the related negative publicity was taken as a personal insult by German industry. They rose to the challenge: invested in machinery, improved processes and hired British experts to refine production methods at their factories. Just ten years later, at the end of the 19th century, “Made in Germany” was no longer a warning sign but a synonym for high quality, good craftsmanship, reliability and innovation – a real selling point!

During the First and Second World Wars, “Made in Germany” once again became a negative symbol – merchandise with this slogan was banned from Britain and from all markets controlled by the allies. However, in the 1950s and ’60s the label experienced its real triumph. As Germany unleashed its “Wirtschaftswunder” (economic miracle), the ingrained focus on innovation, technology and efficiency paid off. People realised that Germany was offering top quality, non-mass-produced items, at a fair price using the latest technology to create clever tailormade solutions.

Today “Made in Germany” continues to be well-respected. The slogan is used assertively by German businesses in their marketing and advertising campaigns and is now a very significant reason for people to choose a product.

So, it’s an interesting story to keep in mind when you’re making your last minute Christmas purchases!