How to include language skills on a resume

I can speak several languages… should I include these in my resume? 

Is it relevant to include language as a skill on my resume? 

Would this help me land a job?

These are some questions people ask in writing their resumes.

Your resume is the key that opens many doors and your ticket to landing your dream job.

Just imagine, global organizations across the world are increasingly looking for bilingual candidates. Today’s fast-paced life is changing business dynamics every day. So organizations need people who have the right language skills and the right technical knowledge to solve their business problems.

Candidates with foreign language skills will have an edge over the rest.

They are often desired for their ability to bridge the communication gap and deal with clients more efficiently by understanding cultural cues.

So it’s an absolute yes to include language on your resume.

But you don’t know how to properly list language as a skill. No worries, we’ll help and guide you craft your resume language section. We’ll provide resume templates and examples for references.

In this article, you will learn:

  1. How to list languages as a skills’ separate section on a resume to make you stand out among the competition.
  2. How to specify and describe your levels of language proficiency to demonstrate your language ability.
  3. How to assess proficiency level, language fluency scales, and frameworks.

Why you should put language skills on your resume?

Learning a foreign language has obvious advantages and here are some of them:

1. It broadens job opportunities.

More companies expand their business on a global level by breaking into new markets. They seek employees who are proficient in a foreign language to collaborate with other teams around the world.

More than 60% of companies find it hard to do business abroad due to language barriers, according to an economic study published by the British Chamber of Commerce.

You see, there are a lot of work opportunities needing your ability to speak, read and write in another language. Knowing another language shows you are open to new experiences and motivated to learn. It also proves that you are willing to work in a multicultural environment.

2. It gives you an edge to ace interviews.

Being bilingual strengthens your profile and gives you an edge over your competitors. It makes you stay relevant in a highly competitive, globalized world. Nowadays, the ability to speak a foreign language is a necessity, as opposed to a desirable skill.

Today, more graduates are learning a foreign language to add skills to a resume because of is cut-throat competition in the job market. So applicants who are monolinguals will likely fall behind.

Remember, it gives you more career opportunities and increases your chances of landing a job among candidates with similar abilities.

3. You can command a higher salary.

According to a study, knowing a foreign language can add between 10-15% to your salary.  So employees who are fluent in a second language can demand and earn higher salaries.

4. It opens doors for career growth.

Companies of all sizes need employees who can help them explore new markets without leaving their own country, all thanks to the power of the internet. This only proves that speaking a foreign language does not limit you from going abroad.

You can work with your language certifications from the comfort of your home or even a local company. For example, you can work multiple jobs as a translator and a part-time remote language instructor.

You don’t have to be fluent in a language, and it often is enough to be proficient to help a company deal with foreign communication.

5. It makes working for international companies appealing.

Companies tend to expand their reach throughout the globe by hiring candidates who can merge with other cultures and seamlessly communicate with their clients. Knowing a foreign language makes you competitive and qualify as an effective global worker.

6. It opens up opportunities to travel and work abroad.

The advantages of speaking a foreign language are not limited to career opportunities; they may also allow you to travel to other parts of the world. Having a foreign language skill can help you get high profile jobs where you meet clients in other countries and carry out business deals. It can offer some exciting perks when traveling and meeting new people from diverse cultures.

7. It lets you mingle & work with a multicultural team

Knowing a foreign language opens the door to learning new cultures and ways of life. You become more comfortable interacting with individuals from a diversity of cultures and ethnicities. You can improve interpersonal skills and make the right decisions by understanding different cultural beliefs, thus improving your ability to see a situation from many angles.

When should you put a foreign language section on your resume?

1. Include it only if it’s relevant in the position or written in the job description post.

It is okay to mention additional languages on your resume as long as you believe they are relevant to the position you are applying for and will improve your candidacy in some way.

In case you include a reference to other languages, be sure to specify your level of proficiency. If you can back it up with proof, then you can definitely put it on your resume.

However, if languages have no bearing on the job, make sure you don’t come off as overqualified.

2. If you have the space for it on your resume.

Resumes nowadays are usually 1-2 pages long. So try to keep it short and concise, while still conveying your worth. If you need to show your language skills on your resume, make a separate section using bullets, indentations, or table format and include language skill level.

Just a piece of advice though, beware that ATS’s can often scramble tables.

What language skills look good on a resume?

For multilingual applying for a relevant job post, you can simply follow a framework using bilingual resume format and templates to highlight your proficiency in a second language.

If you have a career in programming, IT, or web development then you might want to check out how to write programming languages on a resume.

Example:

Technical Proficiencies:

Tools: C/C++,  C#, Java, JavaScript, Python

Methodologies: Agile Development, DevOps

How do you write foreign languages on a Resume?

Job seekers often make this resume writing mistake- placing their language and proficiency levels within their resume skills section. This will make the hiring manager look for a needle in a haystack.  Remember, that they will only look at your resume for 6 seconds and decide whether they’re trash or not.

So here are some tips to guide you on how to list language skills on a resume:

  1. List languages and skill levels in a separate languages section.
  2. Put the language skills section right after the core resume elements in this order: heading, experience, skills, and education.
  3. Use one language framework to list languages with your level of proficiency.
  4. Begin with the language you are best at, then move down the list in order of proficiency.

 

Example:

Languages:

  • British English—Native
  • Colombian Spanish—Fluent
  • Chinese Mandarin—Conversational
  • French—Beginner

Or you can use an illustration like this:

Languages:

French ⬢ ⬢ ⬢ ⬢ ⬢

Spanish ⬢ ⬢ ⬢ ⬢ ⬡

Japanese ⬢ ⬢ ⬡ ⬡ ⬡

If a regional dialect exists for each language, you may also include it. The hiring manager should know and they might find your language abilities useful for the job.

Example: 

  • Spanish (Colombian, Mexican, Brazilian)
  • Chines ( Mandarin, Cantonese)

 

Alternatively, you can use these words and phrases to emphasize the language skill levels:

  1.  Advanced – native language, fluent, proficient, mother tongue, upper-intermediate. You may use descriptive words like excellent or very good.
  2. Mid-range – intermediate, conversational, competent, professional or you can simply say good.
  3. Beginner – elementary proficiency, beginner, basic, average, pre-intermediate, limited working proficiency.

It might be beneficial for you to know how LinkedIn considers Language listings in your profile:

  • Elementary
  • Limited working
  • Professional working
  • Full professional
  • Native or bilingual

 

However, keep in mind that these alternative words and phrases aren’t technically the same. For instance, fluent should not be mistaken for conversational.

This means you can be a native speaker who is fluent in their mother tongue. You can be conversational when you can communicate smoothly, but somehow your vocabulary is rather limited.

Many people assume their years of studying a language is an indication of their proficiency. However, this isn’t the case. Studying Spanish in high school is not as effective as living in Brazil for three months.

How to Find Your Language level of Proficiency or Fluency Levels?

When we use descriptive words to define language fluency or proficiency levels, there is one huge challenge. These terms tend to be confusing for both hiring managers and job seekers. For example, what’s the difference between proficient vs. fluent vs. conversational?

To address these problems, different organizations created a language proficiency scale for standards. This proficiency language scale categorizes people based on criteria such as language fluency, accuracy, and other factors. By standardizing scores, there is less confusion.

Here are the most common proficiency frameworks:

 

1.Interagency Language Roundtable (ILR)

Based and developed for the USA, the ILR proficiency scale offers 6 language proficiency levels. It also provides a “+” designation for language skill levels in between. Note that there are self-assessment questionnaires for reading, speaking, and listening.

2. Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR)

The European Union has come up with a simple set of guidelines that are universally understood.

  • Basic users – A1 or A2
  • Independent users – B1 or B2
  • Proficient users – C1 or C2

You can evaluate your skills using the official CEFR scale chart. You’ll be able to assess your skills in 5 areas: listening, reading, spoken interaction, spoken production, and writing.

3. American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL)

Another commonly used language proficiency scale uses the following categories:

  • Novice (Low, Mid, High)
  • Intermediate (Low, Mid, High)
  • Advanced (Low, Mid, High)
  • Superior
  • Distinguished

The ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines and Scale are updated once every few years. They have a 10-level scale which is also categorized for reading, writing, speaking, and listening.

4. LinkedIn

The LinkedIn language levels of proficiency basically follow ILR language proficiency levels.

Here’s a clear picture of how these organizations categorize the language users.

Tips:
  • Do not just guess your resume’s language skills. We suggest that you assess yourself or obtain an official language certificate so you won’t have to lie or guess in your resume.
  • You should get an official test result for your proficiency by paying for one. The language certification may be critical to a specific job in more than just communication (ex. proofreader, editor, copywriter)
  • You can do the self-assessment as long as you follow official guidelines and documents to grade yourself.
  • If you will set a section for language skills, make sure to back it up with certifications and add it under the sub-category certificates and licenses section.

Should you write bilingual on a resume?

Stating your language levels as skills on resume boosts your resume strength. Since demand for bilingual workers has doubled in recent years, the more you should mention it.

Tip:

Include language skills not only on a separate element on your resume but highlight it in the heading statement or introduction as well. Make sure to include language skills and fluency levels on your cover letter too.

 Example:

Bilingual Copywriter with 5+ years of experience working in an international digital marketing agency…

Crafting the Resume Language Skills Section- Put language skill level

Finally, you can craft your language skill levels resume section.

 1.Here’s a simple and straightforward example for reference:

Language Skills

  • English – Level 5 (ILR)
  • Spanish – Level 4 (ILR)
  • Japanese – Level 3 (ILR)

 

2.You can also choose the below sample:

Language Skills

  • British English – Native or Bilingual Proficiency (ILR Level 5)
  • Spanish – Native/Bilingual (ILR Level 5)
  • Chinese Mandarin – Full Professional Proficiency (ILR Level 4+)
  • French – Professional Working Proficiency (ILR Level 3)

 

3. Sample resume language section using European CEFR scale

Language Skills

  • British English – Native/Bilingual
  • French – C2 Certificate
  • Italian – B2 Level

 

Now, see the difference in how we define the Italian and French languages?

This means that the official result of the French language test is a C2 certificate. While the Italian is B2, based on self-assessment.

 Tips: 
  • Be consistent by not using European and American frameworks at the same time.
  • Use the most appropriate and relevant scale. Say you’re applying for a job in Europe, then use the CEFR scale.
  • Write the most proficient language at the top and list others in descending order.