But despite the boom in German language teaching seen also in Spain itself, the number of Spaniards coming to Germany remains modest. According to figures provided by the Federal Employment Agency, less than 5,000 Spaniards have taken up jobs in Germany over the past year — a tiny fraction of the 4.7 million jobless in Spain.
Class of 2012 participant Rafael Gonzalez del Castillo speaks German and could work in Germany. He picked up the language on a student exchange program in the southern town of Darmstadt and lived with German flat-mates in Madrid. But, in perhaps an alarming sign for Europe, he sees more opportunity and cultural affinity in booming Latin America — and has started to learn Portuguese so he can see work in Brazil.
It’s part of a rising trend in Spaniards departing for former European colonies in Latin America, meaning that Europe is losing much of its top-level talent to emerging economies.
‘‘I see Brazil as a country that’s going to grow so much in these years,’’ said Gonzalez del Castillo, ‘‘And I feel close to them because we are Latin people, and our language is similar.’’
His fellow architect, 25-year-old David Garcia, is doing his masters in architecture in Spain after spending a year at the university in Regensburg, Germany. While there, Garcia took German lessons outside of his normal studies for the entire period.
Now, Garcia is working for a German company remotely while in Spain, and plans to return there when he finishes — but none of his classmates have targeted Germany for work even though there are plenty of building opportunities there.
‘‘All the people I am studying with want to go abroad, but they prefer to go to England or South America because it will take them a lot of time for them to learn German,’’ Garcia said.
Meanwhile, there are indications that workers from outside the EU are more willing to learn a new language than those from members of the bloc itself. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said in its 2012 report that while only 3 percent of working-age EU citizens live in a fellow EU country, migrants from outside the EU make up 5 percent of the EU working-age population. And when Germany’s economy minister recently launched a program to recruit skilled foreign workers, he turned not to southern Europe’s vast pool of jobless workers but to India, Indonesia and Vietnam.
Ten years ago European leaders at a meeting in the Spanish city of Barcelona called for ‘‘action to improve the mastery of basic skills, in particular by teaching at least two foreign languages from a very early age.’’ Six years later, the EU’s language czar, Leonard Orban, declared that speaking two foreign languages in addition to their mother tongue should be the goal for all citizens of the 27-nation bloc.
The result has been a deluge of programs to subsidize language learning in Europe. Yet a poll of more than 25,000 Europeans earlier this year still found only 54 percent said they were able to hold a conversation in more than one language.
And with austerity eating into European government budgets, the bloc’s flagship student exchange program Erasmus, which supports 250,000 students and teachers with grants each year, faces a funding crisis.
‘‘We've had bills for over €100 million already which we can’t honor because there’s no money in the pot,’’ said Dennis Abbott, a spokesman for the European Commission’s education and multi-lingualism directorate.
The shortfall represents less than 0.1 percent of the EU’s annual budget, but the failure to break down language barriers could end up being far costlier.
Edoardo Campanella, a former economic adviser to the Italian government, says labor mobility is fundamental to the EU’s common market, and in particular the eurozone, where countries with widely differing economic fortunes share a single currency.
‘‘Labor mobility is an important adjustment mechanism,’’ said Campanella, currently a Fulbright Scholar at the Harvard Kennedy School. ‘‘The language hurdle impairs this safe-valve.’’
At Berlin’s Cafe Colectivo, 30-year-old project manager Maria Sarricolea from Spain laughed as she recalled friends asking about the job prospects in Germany.
‘‘A lot of Spanish people think they can come here and get a great job with a bit of English,’’ she said.
Clendenning contributed from Madrid. Barry Hatton in Lisbon contributed to this report.
Frank Jordans can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/wirereporter
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