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How to Include Language Skills on Your Resume (Examples)

Showcasing your language skills on your resume can set you apart from other candidates and help you land your dream job. But how do you highlight these skills effectively? Here are some tips and examples on how to include language skills on your resume.

Part 1Language Skills: Levels of Proficiency

Knowing your level of proficiency for each language helps employers understand how effectively you can communicate in various situations. Here are some guidelines and examples to help you define your language skills:

  1. Native: Being a native speaker means that you grew up with the language and it is likely your first language. You are fully proficient in speaking, listening, reading, and writing in this language. On your resume, you can mention that you are a native speaker of English or another language.
  2. Fluent: If you can effortlessly speak, read, and write a language without any significant difficulties, you are considered to be fluent in that language. This generally means that you can comfortably engage in conversations, understand cultural contexts, and are able to think in the language. In this case, you could say that you are fluent in French, Spanish, and Italian, for example.
  3. Professional Working Proficiency: If you can confidently engage in face-to-face or written professional discussions, you possess a professional working proficiency in the language. You should be able to relay complex ideas, read texts, and comprehend business-related jargon. For example, you may have professional working proficiency in Japanese.
  4. Intermediate Level: An intermediate language skill level is marked by your ability to participate in most social and workplace conversations with occasional misunderstandings. You may have a limited vocabulary and struggle with more complex speech or writing.
  5. Limited working proficiency is when you can manage basic conversations and tasks in the language. You can understand the general idea and give simple instructions. However, complex topics can be challenging to grasp, and you might feel more comfortable with support from native speakers in the workplace.
  6. Conversational: If you can communicate in a language but only during casual conversations, you have conversational proficiency. You can typically express basic ideas and understand spoken language, but you may struggle with complex concepts or writing.
  7. Elementary: If you know only a few phrases and basic vocabulary in a language, your proficiency is at the elementary level. You can handle simple interactions and communicate simple needs.

Resume Section Example 1

_______________________________________

Language Skills:

  • English: Native Speaker
  • Spanish: Fluent
  • French: Professional Working Proficiency
  • Mandarin Chinese: Intermediate Level
  • German: Limited Working Proficiency

_______________________________________

Resume Section Example 2

_______________________________________

Skills

  • Fluent in English and Spanish
  • Professional working proficiency in French
  • Intermediate level in Japanese
  • Conversational in Portuguese

_______________________________________

To further show off your language skills, you could include any certifications or achievements related to languages you’ve earned. This might look like:

_______________________________________

Certifications:
– English: TOEFL iBT – 110/120
– Spanish: DELE A2

_______________________________________

Another way to let your language skills shine is by highlighting any experience you’ve gained using these languages. Be it a study abroad program, volunteer work, or professional experience in a foreign country, make sure you mention it in your resume.

_______________________________________

Experience:
Study Abroad:
– Semester in Barcelona, Spain – Fall 2020
– Attended University of Barcelona courses in Spanish
– Improved language skills through immersion and interaction with locals

Volunteer Work:
– Assisted at a local community center, teaching English to Spanish-speaking immigrants – 4 months in 2019

_______________________________________

To help gauge your language proficiency, you can use scales like the Interagency Language Roundtable (ILR) or the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR). Both use standardized measurements to indicate a person’s language abilities. Alternatively, you can take recognized language proficiency tests to obtain a more exact evaluation of your language abilities.

There are two commonly used scales: the CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) and the ACTFL (American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages). Both have varying levels based on linguistic knowledge and communication abilities.

For the CEFR scale, proficiency is organized into six levels:

  • A1: Beginner
  • A2: Elementary/Breakthrough
  • B1: Intermediate/Threshold
  • B2: Upper-Intermediate/Vantage
  • C1: Advanced/Effective Operational Proficiency
  • C2: Mastery/Near-native Proficiency

For the ACTFL scale, there are five main levels:

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

When you include language skills on your resume, it’s important to choose the appropriate proficiency level that best reflects your abilities and matches the scale used in your country or industry. Always be honest about your skills, as you don’t want to be placed in a situation that exceeds your capability.

Part 2How to Choose the Right Resume Format

Your resume format directly impacts how your language abilities are highlighted. Here are some popular resume formats and guidance on how to effectively showcase your language expertise:

Option 1: Chronological resume:
This format focuses on your work experience in reverse chronological order. To demonstrate your language skills, you can mention your proficiency in the “Skills” or “Language Skills” section. If you’ve used specific languages extensively in previous roles, you can include that in the job description. For example:

  • Fluent in Spanish: Acted as a translation liaison between the sales team and Spanish-speaking clients.

Option 2: Functional resume:
A functional resume emphasizes skills and achievements over work history. Create a “Language Skills” section and use bullet points to demonstrate your proficiency level in multiple languages. Here’s an example:

  • Language Skills:
    • Spanish: Fluent
    • French: Conversational
    • Mandarin: Beginner

Option 3: Combination resume:
This format merges the best of both chronological and functional resumes. Create a “Language Skills” section to showcase your proficiency levels, and mention specific instances where you’ve used your language skills in your work experience. For example:

  • Language Skills:
    • Spanish: Fluent
    • French: Conversational
    • Mandarin: Beginner
  • Work Experience:
    • Marketing Coordinator (Company XYZ):
      • Facilitated communication with Spanish-speaking clients and translated marketing materials.
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Choose the appropriate resume format based on your work history and experience, then effectively highlight your language skills in the designated section.

Part 3How to Position Your Language Skills

When listing language skills on your resume, it’s important to showcase them in a way that highlights your proficiency and catches the attention of potential employers. To effectively position your language skills, consider the following strategies:

  • Place your language skills in a dedicated skills section. This helps employers quickly identify your linguistic abilities without having to search through your entire resume. Keep this section concise and well-organized.
  • Tailor your language skills to the job you’re applying for. If a job requires fluency in a specific language, make sure it’s prominent on your resume. Highlight any certifications, degrees, or courses you have taken in the language as well.
  • Don’t forget to mention your language skills in the experience or education sections if relevant. For instance, you can include a bullet point highlighting your use of a second language to negotiate contracts or collaborate with international clients. This demonstrates real-world application of your language skills, making them more tangible and impressive to employers.
  • Lastly, showcase your skill level accurately and honestly. Exaggerated or false claims about your language proficiency can lead to uncomfortable situations during interviews or on the job. Be clear and confident in your abilities, but also be fair and realistic when describing your language skills on your resume.

Part 4How to Highlight Languages In Job-Related Sections

One way to highlight your language skills is by including them in your work experience. Mention specific instances where your language proficiency contributed to a project or improved team communication. For example, if you used your fluency in French to assist your team in handling an international client, describe the situation and the beneficial outcomes for your employer.

Incorporate languages in your professional experience section by discussing tasks or collaborations where your proficiency in a language was essential. For example, if you’re an interpreter, discuss situations where your language skills helped clients understand complex documents or navigate cultural barriers.

Match your language skills with the requirements outlined in the job listing. If the employer specifically seeks candidates with fluency in a certain language, emphasize your capability in that language in your job-related sections. For instance, if the position involves managing international clients and you’re proficient in the client’s native language, make sure you emphasize this when describing your professional experience.

Job-Related Sections Examples

1. Project Manager with Multilingual Team:
“As a Project Manager at X Company, I led a diverse team with members from different countries. My fluency in Spanish and English played a crucial role in bridging language gaps and facilitating effective communication among team members. This contributed to a cohesive work environment and improved project outcomes.”

2. Marketing Specialist Expanding into New Markets:
“During my tenure as a Marketing Specialist at ABC Corporation, I spearheaded the expansion into Latin American markets. My proficiency in Portuguese allowed me to tailor marketing campaigns to the local audience, resulting in a 20% increase in sales within the region.”

3. Customer Service Representative Handling International Clients:
“As a Customer Service Representative at DEF Solutions, I regularly interacted with international clients. My ability to speak Mandarin Chinese not only helped me assist Chinese-speaking clients but also improved overall team communication, leading to higher customer satisfaction ratings.”

4. Software Developer Collaborating with Offshore Team:
“While working as a Software Developer at Tech Innovators, I collaborated with an offshore development team based in India. My fluency in Hindi enabled me to bridge cultural and linguistic gaps, leading to smoother coordination, reduced misunderstandings, and on-time project deliveries.”

5. Sales Manager in Global Sales Division:
“In my role as Sales Manager in the Global Sales Division of GHI Enterprises, I managed accounts across Europe and Asia. My proficiency in German was instrumental in establishing rapport with German clients, resulting in a 15% increase in sales within the German market.”

6. Legal Consultant Resolving Cross-Border Disputes:
“As a Legal Consultant at Law Firm XYZ, I specialized in resolving cross-border disputes. My ability to speak and write in both Spanish and English allowed me to draft legal documents and communicate with clients in their preferred language, simplifying complex legal matters and enhancing client satisfaction.”

7. International Relations Coordinator in a Nonprofit:
“While serving as the International Relations Coordinator at Nonprofit Organization ABC, I organized events and collaborations with international partners. My proficiency in French facilitated meaningful discussions and partnerships with French-speaking NGOs, expanding our global reach and impact.”

8. Tourism Manager Catering to Diverse Tourists:
“As a Tourism Manager at Wanderlust Adventures, I frequently interacted with tourists from various countries. My knowledge of multiple languages, including Spanish, Italian, and Japanese, allowed me to provide personalized assistance, leading to positive reviews and repeat business.”

Part 5How to Cite Your Languages in a Resume: Examples

Phrases Examples

  • Native speaker of German, with a strong understanding of grammar and syntax.
  • Fluent in Spanish, with extensive experience living and working in Spanish-speaking countries.
  • Proficient in French, with the ability to read, write, and speak at an intermediate level.
  • Basic knowledge of Mandarin Chinese, with a focus on conversational skills and travel-related vocabulary.
  • Fluent in Russian, with a focus on reading and translating literature and academic texts.
  • Advanced proficiency in Japanese, with experience translating technical documents and interpreting for business meetings.
  • Intermediate level in Italian, with a focus on reading and writing.
  • Conversational fluency in Portuguese, with experience communicating with native speakers in both professional and social settings.
  • Advanced proficiency in English, with experience teaching English as a second language to non-native speakers.

Part 6CERF Language Proficiency Scale: Descriptions, Examples

CEFR scale (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages):

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A1 (Beginner):
– Can understand and use familiar everyday expressions and very basic phrases.
– Can introduce themselves and others and can ask and answer questions about personal details such as where they live, people they know, and things they have.

A2 (Elementary/Breakthrough):
– Can understand sentences and frequently used expressions related to areas of most immediate relevance.
– Can communicate in simple and routine tasks requiring a simple and direct exchange of information on familiar and routine matters.

B1 (Intermediate/Threshold):
– Can understand the main points of clear standard input on familiar matters regularly encountered in work, school, leisure, etc.
– Can deal with most situations likely to arise while traveling in an area where the language is spoken.

B2 (Upper-Intermediate/Vantage):
– Can understand the main ideas of complex text on both concrete and abstract topics, including technical discussions in their field of specialization.
– Can interact with a degree of fluency and spontaneity that makes regular interaction with native speakers possible without strain for either party.

C1 (Advanced/Effective Operational Proficiency):
– Can understand a wide range of demanding, longer texts, and recognize implicit meaning.
– Can express themselves fluently and spontaneously without much obvious searching for expressions.

C2 (Mastery/Near-native Proficiency):
– Can understand with ease virtually everything heard or read.
– Can summarize information from different spoken and written sources, reconstructing arguments and accounts in a coherent presentation. Can express themselves spontaneously, very fluently and precisely, differentiating finer shades of meaning even in the most complex situations.

Example:
How to list your language proficiency on a resume using the CERF scale

  • English (C2): Native language
  • Spanish (B2): Intermediate
  • Mandarin Chinese (A2): Beginner

Part 7ACTFL Language Proficiency Scale: Descriptions, Examples

ACTFL scale (American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages):

Novice:
– Novice Low: Can understand and produce basic words and phrases related to familiar topics, but may struggle with understanding or producing more complex language.
– Novice Mid: Can understand and produce simple sentences and questions related to familiar topics, but may still struggle with more complex language and unfamiliar situations.
– Novice High: Can understand and produce simple sentences and questions on a wider range of topics, but may still struggle with more complex language and unfamiliar situations.

Intermediate:
– Intermediate Low: Can communicate effectively in most everyday situations, but may struggle with more complex language and abstract concepts.
– Intermediate Mid: Can communicate effectively in most everyday situations, and can understand and produce more complex language related to familiar topics.
– Intermediate High: Can communicate effectively in most situations, and can understand and produce more complex language related to a wide range of topics.

Advanced:
– Advanced Low: Can understand and participate in conversations on a wide range of topics, but may struggle with understanding or producing more abstract or nuanced language.
– Advanced Mid: Can understand and participate in conversations on a wide range of topics, and can understand and produce more abstract or nuanced language.
– Advanced High: Can understand and participate in complex conversations on a wide range of topics, including abstract and nuanced ideas.

Superior:
– Can understand and participate in complex conversations on a wide range of topics, including abstract and nuanced ideas, and can produce language with a high degree of accuracy, fluency, and cultural competence.

Distinguished:
– Can understand and produce language with a level of proficiency and cultural competence that is equivalent to that of a highly educated native speaker.

Example:
How to list your language proficiency on a resume using the ACTFL scale

  • French (Advanced High)
  • German (Intermediate Mid)
  • Japanese (Novice High)

Part 8ILR Language Proficiency Scale: Descriptions, Examples

Another popular testing standard is the Interagency Language Roundtable (ILR) scale:

Level 0: No proficiency – You have no ability to understand or communicate in the language.

Level 1: Elementary proficiency – You have basic communication skills and can understand simple phrases and expressions. You can communicate in familiar situations and can handle basic needs like ordering food or asking for directions.

Level 2: Limited working proficiency – You can communicate in most situations related to work or daily life. You can understand and participate in conversations about familiar topics, but may struggle with more complex language or unfamiliar situations.

Level 3: Professional working proficiency – You have a strong command of the language and can communicate effectively in most professional or academic settings. You can understand and participate in discussions on a wide range of topics and can express yourself clearly and accurately.

Level 4: Full professional proficiency – You have near-native fluency in the language and can communicate effectively in any situation. You can understand and express complex ideas and can adapt your language to different audiences and contexts.

Level 5: Native or bilingual proficiency – You have complete mastery of the language, including all its nuances and cultural references. You can understand and express yourself fluently and naturally, without any noticeable accent or errors.

Example:
How to list your language proficiency on a resume using the ILR scale

  • English: Full professional proficiency
  • Spanish: Professional working proficiency
  • Mandarin Chinese: Limited working proficiency
  • French: Elementary proficiency

Part 9How to Incorporate Language Skills in Cover Letter

When you’re working on your cover letter, take the opportunity to showcase your language skills. This can help set you apart from other candidates and demonstrate your versatility as a potential employee. Here are some tips for incorporating language skills into your cover letter.

Start by mentioning your language proficiency levels in the opening paragraph. Include the names of the languages you know and how well you can speak, read, or write each of them.

In my previous role, I successfully used my fluency in French and conversational Spanish to assist clients and foster a positive working environment…

Next, highlight specific instances where your language skills were valuable. Sharing stories and experiences can show potential employers the real-world applicability of your language skills. Focus on how these skills benefited the company or your colleagues.

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During my time at X Company, I was able to improve customer satisfaction rates for our French-speaking clientele by providing support and resolving issues in their native language.

Don’t forget to mention any language-related certifications or achievements you hold. Listing certifications, like the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the Diplôme d’études en langue française (DELF), can solidify your claims of language proficiency. For example:

As a holder of a B2 DELF certification, I effectively communicate with clients and teammates in French on a daily basis.

Lastly, ensure your cover letter is tailored to the job position and company. Mention how your language expertise can positively impact the company or align with its values or objectives. For example:

With my knowledge of Mandarin and the company’s growing presence in the Chinese market, I am confident that my language skills will contribute to ABC Corporation’s growth and success…

Part 10How to Display Language Proficiency on LinkedIn

When creating your LinkedIn profile, showcasing your language skills can help you stand out to potential employers and connections. Here’s how to add language skills to your LinkedIn profile effectively.

First, head to the Languages section under the Accomplishments tab of your LinkedIn profile’s editing interface. If it’s not visible, click on the “plus” symbol and select Languages from the list. This is the dedicated section for listing languages and their proficiency levels.

For each language you’re proficient in, add the language name and select the appropriate proficiency level from the available options:

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

Choose the level that best represents your ability to speak, read, and write in that particular language. Be honest when selecting proficiency levels, as overestimating your skills could lead to uncomfortable situations during interviews or work tasks.

Once you’ve added all the languages you’re proficient in, save your changes and preview your LinkedIn profile to ensure your language abilities are displayed correctly.

As an alternative, you can also mention your language skills in the About section or Experience section, depending on the job importance of knowing a particular language. For example, if you’ve worked in roles where speaking another language was essential, make sure to highlight it in your job description.

Example 1 – About Section:

About Me:
I am a results-oriented professional with a strong background in international sales and marketing. Fluent in English, Spanish, and Portuguese, I excel at building relationships with clients from diverse cultural backgrounds. My language skills have been instrumental in expanding our global market presence and driving revenue growth.

Example 2 – Experience Section:

Sales Manager, X Corporation
– Led a multicultural sales team and increased international sales by 30%.
– Utilized my fluency in Mandarin Chinese to establish and nurture key partnerships in the Chinese market, resulting in a 40% boost in revenue.
– Collaborated with the marketing department to create bilingual promotional materials for the Latin American market, contributing to a 20% increase in sales in the region.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the different levels to describe language skills on a CV?

  1. Beginner: You have basic knowledge of the language and can communicate in simple everyday situations.
  2. Elementary: You can understand and use familiar everyday expressions and basic phrases.
  3. Intermediate: You can communicate about familiar topics and understand the main points of clear standard input.
  4. Upper-intermediate: You can interact with native speakers without strain and understand more complex text on various topics.
  5. Fluent: You can express yourself spontaneously, effectively, and accurately, with a wide range of vocabulary and proper grammar.
  6. Expert: You have a near-native level of fluency, understanding idiomatic expressions, and cultural nuances.

 

What are some examples of showcasing language proficiency in a resume?

Here are three examples of how to showcase your language proficiency on a resume:

  • Example 1: Languages: English (native), Spanish (fluent), French (intermediate)
  • Example 2: Language Skills
    • English – Native speaker
    • Spanish – Fluent in spoken and written communication
    • French – Intermediate level with strong reading and listening skills
  • Example 3: In a Skills section: Proficient in English, Spanish, and French, with experience in translation and interpreting.

How should I list language skills in a job description on my CV?

When listing language skills in a job description, focus on how your language abilities were relevant to the position and contributed to your success. You can mention specific tasks or projects that required language skills, or discuss your interactions with clients and colleagues in another language.

Example: Managed a team of 10 Spanish-speaking employees, conducting weekly meetings and communicating project updates in both English and Spanish.

When is it appropriate to include a language on my resume?

It’s appropriate to include a language on your resume if it’s relevant to the job you’re applying for, if it sets you apart from other candidates, or if it exemplifies your background and experience. This may be especially important for positions with multinational companies or those requiring frequent communication with people from different backgrounds.

What are the best practices for stating language skills in resume writing?

  • Be honest about your level of proficiency, so you don’t set unrealistic expectations during interviews or in the workplace.
  • Use the six-level scale to indicate your language skills accurately.
  • List the languages you’re proficient in, along with your level, under a separate “Languages” or “Skills” section on your resume.
  • Avoid using vague terms like “conversational” or “advanced”; instead, use precise terms like “intermediate” or “fluent.”
  • Mention language-related experiences or accomplishments, such as translation work, language-related projects, or study abroad experiences.
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