Spaniards Learn German In Hopes Of Getting A Job

  • Playlist
  • Download
  • Embed
    Embed <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no">
  • Transcript

With Hollywood movies dubbed over in Spanish and steadfast trade with Latin America, Spaniards haven't needed to be bilingual until now. Globalization and a recession have sparked a run on language classes in Spain. But it's not English proficiency they're after. German academies are seeing a surge in enrollment, as Spaniards look northward for jobs in Europe's strongest economy.


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: It's summertime in Spain. Locals sip sangria at a bar in�downtown Madrid. But the chit-chat sounds a bit different this summer.

Unidentified Man #1: (German spoken)

FRAYER: These Spaniards are speaking German.�

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

FRAYER: Arturo Noriega and his friends are among the millions of educated Spaniards unable to find good jobs at home. So they've set their sights on Europe's strongest economy - Germany.�

More than one in five Spaniards is out of work. But Germany is forecast to have a shortage of two million skilled workers by the year 2020.

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

Mr. 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.�

Mr. ALEJANDRO GARCIA (Teacher): 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.

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

FRAYER: One by one, Garcia helps them fill out applications for jobs in Germany.�

This isn't the first wave of Spaniards heading north. Thousands left in the 1960s and '70s. At the time, a popular movie in Spain was "Vente A Alemania, Pepe" "Come to Germany, Pepe" - about a lovable village idiot who goes to Germany chasing money and beautiful blondes.�

(Soundbite of movie, "Vente A Alemania, Pepe")

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

(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.

Mr. 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: Noriega and his peers are skilled workers with Master's degrees. That's a different profile from Pepe in the film.

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.

Mr. NICK BYRNE (London School of Economics): 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.

Mr. 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.�

Mr. KNOGEL: Flamenco.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. KNOGEL: And the Spanish girls are very nice.

(Soundbite of laughter)

FRAYER: So while many Germans head to Spain for vacation this summer, some locals are hoping to migrate in the opposite direction. Once they master those German verbs, of course.

For NPR News, I'm Lauren Frayer in Madrid.�

Copyright © 2011 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.