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Spaniards Learn German In Hopes Of Getting A Job

Originally published on August 8, 2011 6:59 am
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STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

It's a tough economy in Europe, as well as here. And we're going to turn now to Spain, where tough economic times has sparked a run on language classes. Spaniards are looking for work elsewhere in Europe. And it's not just English that helps them to land a job. As Lauren Frayer reports from Madrid, German language academies are seeing a surge in enrollment.

LAUREN FRAYER: Unidentified Man #1: (German spoken)

FRAYER: These Spaniards are speaking German.

ARTURO NORIEGA: You have to pronounce, I think, with the throat. Rrrrr, rrrr, rrrr.

FRAYER: Noriega trained as an agricultural engineer, but has to make do working as a low-paid childcare supervisor in Madrid.

NORIEGA: The job that I can have in Germany would be much better paid - very good pay - than here.

FRAYER: Back in February, Chancellor Angela Merkel came to Madrid and issued an invitation to Spanish professionals to go to Germany. Since then, German classes have seen a 20 percent spike in enrollment.

ALEJANDRO GARCIA: I have all the work that I want.

FRAYER: German teacher Alejandro Garcia spends all day at this sidewalk cafe, giving private lessons. He's flooded with requests.

GARCIA: All the people is like, I want to learn German, I want to learn German, I need to learn German.

FRAYER: Unidentified Man #2 (Actor): (Foreign language spoken)

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "VENTE A ALEMANIA, PEPE")

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHING)

FRAYER: In the end, Pepe decides Germans work too hard and eat strange food. The film is dated, but its theme - stereotypes of North versus South - lingers with many Spaniards, like Arturo Noriega.

NORIEGA: I think the German people are very punctual, very strict in their jobs. You know, Spain also has very hard-working people, but it's a little bit more relaxed. It's more friendly.

FRAYER: Nick Byrne, director of the language center at the London School of Economics, says the Germans are not looking for blue collar guest workers like they did in the 1960s and '70s.

NICK BYRNE: Very much more like manual things, more like waiters, cleaners and all of that. Whereas this side is very much more mid to upper market, managerial posts, people working in executive positions. So it's basically going to white collar from blue collar.

TIM KNOGEL: (Foreign language spoken)

FRAYER: Back at the bar, an 18-year-old German is surrounded by Spaniards, all asking him questions about German grammar. Tim Knogel says he's happy to help, but he's quite enamored with all things Spanish.

KNOGEL: Flamenco.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

KNOGEL: And the Spanish girls are very nice.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

FRAYER: For NPR News, I'm Lauren Frayer in Madrid. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.