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Class Of 2012: Young Europeans Trapped By Language

Few German employers are prepared to compromise when it comes to language skills, according to Raimund Becker, who heads the German Federal Employment Agency's division for foreign and specialist recruitment. "If you want to work as an engineer you'll need a certain specialist vocabulary," he said. "Even colloquial German isn't enough."

Earlier this year the agency announced it would invest up to ⿬40 million ($51 million) in special programs to help jobless Europeans aged 18 and 35 learn German so they can pursue jobs or training in Germany.

The measure targets people like Menendez, who graduated from veterinary school and has two master's degrees but hasn't been able to find work in Spain.

The market for veterinarians in her home country has taken a phenomenal beating over the past four years. Veterinary clinics are cutting back severely because crisis-hit Spaniards are spending less on pets, and a recent hike in the sales tax to 21 percent is hurting these businesses even more. "They're just not hiring," Menendez said.

She would also be qualified to work as a veterinarian for an agricultural company, and she has sent about 1,000 resumes to all corners of Spain over the last year. But only two companies called her back for a preliminary interview. Neither called to invite her for a formal one.

Menendez said she found plenty of jobs online in Germany, where EU rules mean her Spanish qualification would be accepted. But the ads are either in German or, if in English, say that candidates must have good German.

Like most Spaniards, she studied English at school and is now focusing on improving her English. Often touted as the continent's 'lingua franca,' English is widely used in multi-national companies but rarely in the public sector or the small-to-medium sized enterprises that employ the bulk of the European labor force. Meanwhile, London isn't the magnet for young English-speaking Europeans that it used to be. Migrants who flocked there a decade ago are now returning home or looking elsewhere for work as Britain, too, struggles with a rising jobless rate.

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