Listing Your Language Skills On Your CV
Written by Jobseeker, Editorial Team • Last updated on May 17, 2024

Listing Your Language Skills On Your CV / Resume

In today’s international environment, language skills are an asset. Speaking a foreign language or two can give you an edge over other similarly qualified candidates, even if you don’t need language skills to perform the job. The reason is that businesses are always looking to expand their customer base and one of the fastest ways to do so, is to employ staff who can speak other languages.

Foreign language skills are becoming the most sought-after skills by employers. Being able to speak another language demonstrates much more than communication skills. They also demonstrate that:

  • You can understand and get along with other cultures
  • You’re able to adapt to new situations
  • You’re able to take on new challenges (learning a new language is no mean feat!)
  • You’re open to new ideas

The list goes on. As multilingualism brings with it a whole host of benefits, more and more employers are turning to the international job market to find the right candidate. Therefore, mentioning your language skills in your CV can help you compete with international candidates who will very likely speak more than one foreign language, e.g. English and their native language.

What’s the right way to list language skills on your resume? Is it enough to mention that you can speak conversational French or intermediate Spanish? Read on for some tips.

Communication ability is one of the most sought-after skills in job candidates, and the ability to speak multiple languages indicates that you are a strong communicator and that you are able to communicate with people from other areas of the world or those from different cultures.

International standards for language proficiency

One of the main ways to indicate your language skills is by using the Common European Framework of Reference which is a guideline to help language learners in Europe to assess their language levels.

Letters are used to categorise language levels into three broad divisions and six levels to describe the learner’s ability in reading, writing, speaking and listening:

A – Basic user

  • A1 – Breakthrough or beginner
  • A2 – Waystage or elementary

B – Independent user

  • B1 – Threshold or intermediate
  • B2 – Vantage or upper intermediate

C – Proficient user

  • C1 – Effective operational efficiency
  • C2 – Mastery or proficiency

Breaking down your skills this way will help employers understand whether you can use your language skills in a professional environment.

This international standard can be used when writing a CV in English or when applying to an international company, for example:

Languages

  • English C1
  • Spanish B1
  • French A2

Should You Include Languages on Your CV/Resume?

Generally speaking, it’s always a good idea to list your language skills on your resume. If the job that you are applying for requires a certain language, you will want to highlight your skills prominently. But, even if a job description does not specifically require additional languages, it can still be beneficial to outline your proficiencies.

Communication ability is one of the most sought-after skills in job candidates, and the ability to speak multiple languages indicates that you are a strong communicator and that you can communicate with people from other areas of the world or those from different cultures. Your language skills and cultural knowledge may be useful for communicating with a company’s international partners as well as team members, customers, or clients who speak other languages.

The only time you may not want to list languages on your CV would be if language skills are not required for the position that you are applying for and you don’t have extra space on your resume. For example, including details about your past work experience should take precedence over sharing that you speak intermediate Spanish.

Use a CV/Resume builder

A professional CV builder such as Jobseeker can help you present your language skills in a way that’s understandable to employers.

On our resume templates, we use the following levels:

  • Native (you’ve spoken the language from a very young age or were brought up bilingual)
  • Fluent (you can converse with native speakers in all kinds of situations with very little difficulty)
  • Good (you’re able to express yourself clearly and with few grammatical mistakes, although you may sometimes struggle to find the right word)
  • Reasonable (you’re able to use the language conversationally, but may struggle in work contexts)

Expert Tip:

No matter which scale you choose to use, be consistent with it throughout if you mention multiple languages. If the job listing mentions a certain scale, present your language levels in that same scale to help your resume pass the applicant tracking system (ATS) scans.

Don’t know how to rate your language skills?

It's not always easy to assess your language abilities. Perhaps, you can have a conversation with your flatmate in German, but you struggle to write e-mails in the language or you can chat with your colleagues in French, but find it difficult to converse with customers on the phone.

In any case, the best way to find out is to take a language test. While there are hundreds of language tests available online, it’s a good idea to choose an officially recognised or authorised provider. On Wikipedia, you can find accredited language providers per language.

Where to include your language skills on your CV/Resume?

You can include your language information under your skills section, in your education section, or in its own section. If you speak just one additional language beyond your native tongue and/or language skills are not critical for the position you are applying for, you can save space on your CV by including that information in your skills or education section. In that case, you don’t also need to list your native tongue.

However, if you speak several different languages and/or language skills are integral to the job, you may wish to create a separate languages section to highlight this information more prominently. If you do create a dedicated section, you may also wish to mention your native language, especially if you are bilingual - this makes it clear which two languages you speak natively.

You may also wish to include a brief description of your language skills in your resume header or summary, especially if you are fluently bilingual or multilingual. Use one of our CV templates to ensure a professional presentation of your skills.

Use a Consistent Format

No matter where you add your resume language skills, be sure to format the information in a way that’s cohesive with the rest of your CV. If you opt to include your languages in your skills section, simply add another bullet point or item in the comma-separated list. It may make sense to include your language information in your education section if you learned the language through school classes or study abroad, or if you minored in the language.

If you create a separate section for languages, ensure that the format is similar to the rest of your CV. You may also wish to present your language proficiencies with an infographic or in a separate box if it will fit with the overall scheme of the document. If you are listing multiple languages, always start with the one that you are most proficient in and add the rest in descending order of proficiency.

What about language courses?

As a general rule, it’s best to mention any courses you’ve taken in a separate ‘Courses’ section of your CV. This goes after the ‘Education’ section.

However, if you have taken language courses for work, you may want to place them in the ‘Work Experience’ section, so that employers can see that these courses are tied directly to work, especially if you’ve taken a course such as ‘Business Spanish’ or ‘Spanish in the Workplace’.

Be honest about your language skills

If you do put your languages on your CV or resume, it is important that you are honest about your language skills and your level of proficiency.

A lot of candidates tend to overestimate their language levels and end up struggling when it comes to interviewing in a foreign language.

However, as recruiters and employers can easily test your language skills by setting a test or asking you some questions in the foreign language, you’ll only be doing yourself a disservice if you exaggerate your language skills.

If you don’t speak a language fluently or well enough for professional purposes and you’re found out, employers will wonder what else you may have lied about in your CV.

Even if you do manage to convince employers that your language skills are up to scratch, once you’re hired, you’ll almost certainly be caught out if speaking a foreign language is a requirement of the job.

Honesty is really the best policy here - if your language skills are weak, indicate as much on your resume or better still, leave them off and focus on your strengths.

Key Takeaways

Adding language skills to your resume can show potential employers that you are culturally aware, can communicate with a diverse group of people, and are dedicated to challenging tasks. It’s generally always a good idea to include additional languages that you speak, even if they are not strictly required for the job. Include your proficiency level for each language, and use a consistent rating scale and format. You can include your languages in your education section or your skills section, or you can create a section specifically for languages.

Need help creating a resume that highlights your linguistic abilities? Check out Jobseeker’s professional resume creation tool, which allows you to enter your information and easily switch between resume layouts, fonts, color schemes, and more. Then you can download your resume instantly and get started applying for your dream job right away!

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Editorial Team
Our team at Jobseeker offer CV, resume and cover letter guidance with practical tips, industry insights, and expert advice for job seekers to succeed in their career journeys.

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