Language Skills & Proficiency Levels on Resume [+ Resume examples]

As the global economy expands, many employers prioritize language skills in resumes. Multilingual managers who lead international businesses are actively seeking bilingual and trilingual employees to help them expand their businesses. 

In this article, we will cover tips on listing your language skills effectively, the framework for describing different language proficiency levels, and some resume examples.

Keep reading to know!

Why Language Skills on Resumes Are Important

As more and more businesses operate internationally and are led by multilingual managers, thousands of employers prioritize language skills when choosing candidates.

Being able to communicate in different languages can be one of the proofs of showcasing your communication skills. Not to mention when businesses want to take advantage of global markets, a multilingual employee can help in translating documents, convey the business message intuitively, and so on. The language skills you put on your resume can help recruiters to measure your ability to communicate with potential employers, markets, clients, and co-workers.

Make sure that you know how to include your language proficiency using the right terms and in the right format so that recruiters can accurately evaluate your skills.

How to Include Language Skills on Resumes

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Step #1 Read the job posting and know the language skills needed.

The first thing you need to do is know if adding languages to your resume or adding certain languages, say Spanish, to your resume is going to do you a favor. You want your resume only to include necessary and relevant information so the recruiter is less likely to disregard it.

For example, when you see a job post include the following requirements:

Bilingual Copywriter

  • Fluency in writing in Spanish and English.
  • minimum 2 years of copywriting experience.
  • Creative writing samples in both Spanish and English.

You know you have to highlight your English and Spanish skills on the resume. You can also mention other languages you are familiar with, but there is no need to focus on them.

Step #2 Assess your language proficiency.

Clearly indicating levels of language proficiency is of great importance, as the hiring manager, at this stage, can only rely on what you write on the resume for your language skills to decide if you are suitable. For example, "Spanish (C2)" or "fluent in Spanish" on the resume tells the recruiter much more than a simple "Spanish".

To be able to describe your language skill levels on your resume clearly, you must first know how good you are at the language. There are many ways to assess your language proficiency, which will be discussed later in this article

Step #3 Decide where to put language skills on your resume.

Possessing proficiency in more than one language might lead to better opportunities. Depending on the employer's requirement and expectation of language skills, you might need to highlight your language levels on a resume to stand out from the competition.

However, it could be counterproductive if you put your language skills in the wrong section of your resume or describe your language proficiency level unclearly on the resume. 

A separate language skills section in the resume

Having a dedicated language section in your resume would help the recruiter quickly pinpoint your relevant language expertise needed for the job. It is best to put language skills on your resume in a separate section when you have at least an upper-intermediate level of fluency for more than two languages relevant to the job. Language skills with lower levels of proficiency should not be included in your resume as they are considered irrelevant for a professional context. 

Check out this example of a language skills section on a resume:

Language Skills

  • American English – Native/Bilingual (ILR Level 5)
  • Mandarin ­– Native/Bilingual (ILR Level 5)
  • Japanese – Professional Proficiency (ILR Level 4+)
  • Canadian French – Professional Proficiency (ILR Level 4)
  • Colombian Spanish – Professional Working Proficiency (ILR Level 3+)

Experience descriptions

The benefit of mentioning language skills through your experience descriptions is that it provides context and quantifiable results to your language proficiency levels shown on the resume.

For instance, you can provide examples of how your language skills have helped you perform better in your previous roles and achieved positive results.

Check out this example of how to list language skills on a resume work experience descriptions:

Work Experience

Administrative Assistant
ATC Company | 2018-2020

  • Efficiently executed bilingual customer service in Spanish and English by resolving an average of 6 cases per hour.
  • Converted advertising copies from Mandarin to Japanese with consistent accuracy to the style and branding.

Certifications section

Certificates are strong, accredited qualifications of your language levels on your resume. Consider including your language certification if the skill is crucial to the job, or if you lack the working experience related to the language. Certifying your skills also greatly increases your CV’s visibility and removes any initial doubts.

Take a look at this example of certifications section that includes language levels on a resume:

Certifications

  • Japanese: JLPT N1
  • Spanish: DELE C1
  • Mandarin: HSK 5

How to Describe Language Proficiency

So, what are the different levels of language proficiency and how do you list a language level on a resume? To avoid misinterpretation of your language fluency levels shown on your resume, follow a standardized proficiency scale.

The language proficiency frameworks standardize the level scoring of every individual to minimize confusion with ambiguous terms like “fluent” or “proficient”. The levels may be assigned separately for different language skills such as listening, reading, writing, and speaking.

Here are the three commonly applied language proficiency frameworks in CV or resume:

1. Interagency Language Roundtable (ILR) / LinkedIn language proficiency levels

ILR is the standard language grading scale developed for the U.S. government. It has 11 possible grade levels from 0 to 5 with “+” designations in between. LinkedIn has its own language proficiency levels that are built based on ILR.

LinkedInILR levels
No proficiency0
Elementary proficiency0+, 1, 1+
Limited working proficiency2, 2+
Professional working proficiency3, 3+
Full professional proficiency4, 4+
Native or bilingual proficiency5

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

As suggested in its name, CEFR is a set of European guidelines for describing language ability that is recognized internationally. The levels A1 to C2 are categorized into 3 types of users: basic user (A1, A2), independent user (B1, B2), and proficient user (C1, C2).

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

ACTFL is also developed from ILR and is widely used in academia. It has five main levels: Novice, Intermediate, Advanced, Superior, and Distinguished. The first three levels are subdivided into low, mid, and high levels.

Examples of listing language skills on resume with the different proficiency level frameworks:

  • ILR Framework:
         Russian - Level 4+
  • CEFT Framework:
         German – C1
  • ACTFL Framework:
         Polish – Advanced High

Tips for Writing Language Skill Levels on Resumes

While there are many options for you to write your language levels in your CV, make sure to follow these tips to avoid common mistakes.

💡 Tip 1. Don’t lie.

Don’t overestimate your language proficiency on your resume if you have low levels of fluency. Having a lot of language skills is only impressive when you have high levels of proficiency and equivalent working abilities. If you lie, you will likely get caught at some point, which will greatly reduce your credibility.

💡 Tip 2. Include the proficiency level.

Always include your language proficiency levels on your resume. It would be a waste of space if you only list out the languages without standardized skill levels, or with graphics that have no meaning to your actual proficiency. Consult the language proficiency frameworks and choose one grading system to represent your language skill levels on your resume.

💡 Tip 3. List your most proficient language first.

When listing multiple languages, begin with your most proficient language and list the rest in descending order of proficiency. The top of a list is what catches human eyes first and sticks better to memory, so put your strongest language skill when listing languages on a resume.

💡 Tip 4. Use a dedicated section.

If you speak multiple languages or if a particular language is critical for a job, you should highlight your language skills on your CV using a dedicated section. Putting your language skills within other sections might save you some space, but they also become invisible. Create a separate section if you want to emphasize the languages you know in your resume.

💡 Tip 5. Don’t use years to show fluency.

As powerful as it seems, using years as a measurement of fluency isn’t going to work. One might learn 2 years of French in high school, but merely spend 3 hours of classes per week to practice French, which is likely less effective than living in a French-speaking country for months. So, do not use years to show your language proficiency on a resume.

💡 Tip 6. Be consistent with the language proficiency frameworks.

If you choose to use the ILR scale, then stick with it for all your language proficiency levels on your resume. Don’t switch from one framework to another because the recruiters won’t spend much time evaluating every resume, not to mention understanding each framework to better know your language skill levels.

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How to Assess Your Language Skill Levels

There are two methods you can use to assess your language proficiency levels to put in your CV:

🔎 Take a language exam.

The most direct and easy way of examining your language levels is to pay and take a test. You will get an official score and certificate to prove your language proficiency in your CV, which is recommended especially for languages that are crucial to the job you are seeking.

🔎 Self-assessment using the official guidelines.

Otherwise, you can also do a self-assessment by grading yourself following the official guidelines. This is better than blindly speculating about your skill levels, in which you might end up lying or underestimating your language fluency level. The official guidelines for all three frameworks could be found on their respective websites.

🔑  Key Takeaways

The job market is putting emphasis on language abilities more than ever since lots of businesses are expanding their organization and client base globally. Properly adding language skills in your resume helps you stand out:

  • Include only relevant languages.
  • Describe your language proficiency clearly.
  • Choose a suitable place on your resume to add language skills.

Still, have questions on how to put language skills on your resume? Review the tips and methods of assessing your language proficiency. 

Find these articles interesting? Follow our blog for more resume writing and job search tips!

--- Originally written by Sandy Tuo ---

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