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Language is a valuable skill to have listed on your CV. When writing your CV, having your language proficiency levels clearly displayed will help you stand out to employers. For example, they may work in a multilingual market and need their potential hires to be fluent in more than one language.
Including your language fluency levels on a CV will also set you apart from your monolingual counterparts because a language skill indicates to employers that you are versatile and dynamic. English speakers even earn more than speakers of other languages, which makes it especially important to indicate if you are proficient in English on your CV.
It can be difficult to know how to write language levels on a CV, since there are many format options and different terminology. But having your level of language on your CV can help you catch the attention of your prospective employer. It's important not to overlook this information and make space on your CV for your language proficiency levels.
It is important to include language knowledge levels on your CV. Since a CV is meant to highlight your skills and experience in more depth than a resume, it’s important to be detailed on your CV about your level of language. First, start by listing the languages you speak as well as any regional variants if it’s applicable. For each language, you should indicate your proficiency levels on your CV.
It can be hard to know how to describe language levels in your CV. Apart from listing the languages you speak, you can use some proficiency terms to explain your level of competence. There are some common scales to indicate your language proficiency levels on a CV, as well as several professional frameworks.
Here are some common language proficiency levels used on a CV.
These are common terms you could use to describe your language levels on a CV.
Using these terms on your CV as a language level description will help to clarify your ability and your language skills levels in your CV. This will help employers to understand how competent you are in that language. If you are looking for more universal terms to use to describe your language fluency levels on your CV, you can use a language framework.
When writing languages in your CV, the level of proficiency can be challenging to describe clearly.
One way to be concise about your fluency level is to use a standard framework when writing different levels of language proficiency for your CV.
There are three common frameworks you could use to assess language proficiency levels on your CV:
1. Interagency Language Roundtable
The ILR is scaled from 0 to 5 and includes intermediate ‘plus’ levels. 2+, for example, indicates higher working proficiency than 2, but not enough to be considered level 3. You can find out more about ILR here.
The ILR is most commonly used in the US, so keep that in mind when using ILR on your CV to indicate your language skills level.
ILR levels are:
Examples of using ILR to describe language proficiency for your CV:
2. American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL)
The ACTFL is widely used in North America, so using ACTFL to describe your language levels on your CV might be more common in those markets. It has 5 different proficiency levels:
Novice, Intermediate, and Advanced all have 3 subcategories: Low, Mid, and High. You can find more information about ACTFL here.
Examples of using ACTFL to describe language levels on your CV:
3. Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR)
The CEFR has 6 levels, from A1 to C2. A1 and A2 indicate beginner and elementary, B1 and B2 are intermediate, while C1 and C2 are advanced. The CEFR is widely used for European languages and is accepted internationally. You can find out more about CEFR here.
Examples of using CEFR to describe language levels on your CV:
Regardless of the framework or proficiency terms you use to describe your language fluency levels on your CV, it helps to be consistent and use the same framework throughout your CV.
Now that you know how to describe your language levels in your CV, the next task is to find the most appropriate place to display this information, to catch the attention of an employer. Where you place your language skills level in your CV depends on the type of position you are applying for, and whether language skills are uniquely valuable to the role. There are several possibilities for listing your language levels on your CV.
One place you can put language levels on a CV is the skills section. This is ideal for people who aren’t multilingual or don’t need to cater their CV to have language proficiency levels for a specific job.
In a skills section, list languages in order from most to least fluent and include your language proficiency levels in the CV as well as any assessments or certificates you’ve acquired.
✅ Pros: Great for mono-lingual applicants
❌ Cons: May get overlooked
CV Skills Sample:
If you are multilingual, you may benefit from having a language section on your CV, to indicate your language skills level. This would be more appropriate if the job you are applying to requires you to speak more than one language.
In this case, the language levels on your CV should be something to emphasize. A language section should be prominent on your CV. Under a ‘languages’ heading, list your language ability from most to least fluent, along with language fluency levels on your CV.
✅ Pros: Highlights your ability
❌ Cons: May take up unnecessary space on a CV
CV Languages Sample:
If you have been certified proficient in any language, it might be more useful to list your language levels on your CV under a certificates section.
A certificates section often includes more than just language levels on your CV. Certifications like TOEFL for English or TELC for European languages are great to indicate your level of language on a CV and show potential employers the proof of your language ability.
Under certificates, list the language and the certificate name, as well as your proficiency level.
✅ Pros: Indicates proof of proficiency
❌ Cons: May not stand out if you have many certificates
CV Certificates Sample:
A certificate of language proficiency can clarify your language fluency levels on your CV and add a lot to your application. It shows employers that a professional body has recognized your language ability.
This is often overlooked by applicants, but when writing your CV language proficiency levels, it’s important to include your native language. The employer may prefer a native speaker, and this will help you stand out, so native language is important to include when describing your language levels on your CV.
If you haven’t spoken the language since childhood but your fluency is just as good, it would be helpful to further qualify your proficiency using this term. Using “near native” to describe your level of language on your CV can help you stand out.
If you are bilingual, include your language knowledge levels in your CV headline. Employers value a dynamic applicant with language skills, regardless of the job, and including this information in your headline can draw attention to your CV.
If you are multilingual, or if the job you are applying to requires multiple language skills, a language section can highlight your qualifications, and provide space for more detailed language levels on your CV.
When describing language fluency levels on your CV, use the same scale and proficiency language for simplicity. For example, it would be confusing to use CEFR to describe one language skill and ILR for another language in the same section.
There are several ways to determine your language levels on your CV.
It is completely appropriate to self-assess your level of language on your CV. One simple way of doing this is to look at the different proficiency levels and judge your ability by comparison.
Language proficiency is more than speaking. You should self-test your understanding through reading, writing, and listening as well.
If you are having trouble self-assessing alone, it might help to find a free assessment online. This can help you clearly define your language levels for your CV. All three language frameworks mentioned above offer free assessment guidelines and questionnaires.
If you are struggling to self-assess using online resources, or if your job might require it, it could be helpful to take a proficiency exam with a governing body, before including your language skills levels in your CV.
Including language levels in your CV can help you stand out as a valuable applicant. Be sure to use clear language, or a proficiency framework, to describe your level of language on your CV. Think about which section of your CV to have language skills level: skills, languages, or certificates.
Try to self-assess your ability honestly or take a proficiency exam. Finding the best way to work language levels into your CV can help distinguish yourself as a strong candidate for any job.
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--- Originally written by Tiffany Quinn ---