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 â¿¿ 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.

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