How To List Languages on Your Resume
Speaking multiple languages is a very desirable characteristic in a job seeker. In today’s global workplace, there are many positions where even basic knowledge of a language other than your native tongue is helpful. And, of course, being bilingual or multilingual is even better!
This article will cover what resume language skills are, whether you should include them on your resume, and tips and examples for how to do so effectively.
What Are Resume Language Skills?
Resume language skills are any additional languages that you speak besides the language that your resume is written in. If you possess intermediate or higher comprehension abilities in any other language, that would be appropriate to list as a resume language skill.
Should You Include Languages on Your 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 definitely 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 are able to 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.
Speaking multiple languages shows employers that you are dedicated and don’t shy away from challenging tasks like learning new languages.
The only time you may not want to list languages on your resume 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.
How To List Languages on Your Resume
If you’ve decided to include language skills on your resume, here’s how:
Include Comprehension Levels
When listing your language skills on your resume, it’s important to include your comprehension levels for each language. Assess your speaking, reading, writing, and listening comprehension skills and choose from one of the following levels:
- Beginner: A beginner will know some words and phrases in another language, but would not be able to hold a conversion or put together grammatically sound sentences. If you are a beginner in another language, it’s generally not worth mentioning on your resume, unless you include one or more additional languages in which you are more advanced, and you want to show that you are currently learning yet another language.
- Intermediate: An intermediate speaker will be able to hold a simple conversation or get points across, although perhaps not with perfect grammar. You might understand the grammatical rules of the language in theory but still make some mistakes and have limited vocabulary. You likely speak at a slower pace than native speakers and need to have some phrases repeated before you can understand.
- Proficient/Conversational: A proficient speaker would be able to hold conversions without much difficulty or repetition, and can read and write the language well. You might not understand certain colloquialisms or specialized vocabulary but can interact effectively with a native speaker.
- Fluent: A fluent speaker is completely comfortable with a language and can speak, read, write, and understand spoken language easily. You have a full working knowledge of the language, but you did not grow up speaking it.
- Native: A native speaker grew up speaking the language and has mastered all aspects of it, including complex grammar, irregularities, colloquialisms, and extensive vocabulary. Perhaps you grew up in a bilingual or multilingual home. If you did not grow up speaking a language but are completely proficient in it, you might say that you possess near-native proficiency.
There are also several official language proficiency scales that you can use to quantify your comprehension levels, such as:
- Interagency Language Roundtable (ILR): This scale was developed for the US government and includes 6 levels of proficiency (0-5) as well as a ‘plus’ designation if you fall between numbers.
- Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR): This is a widely-recognized scale that includes basic (A1 or A2), intermediate (B1 or B2), and proficient (C1 or C2) designations.
- American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL): This scale includes several levels - Novice (Low, Mid, High), Intermediate (Low, Mid, High), Advanced (Low, Mid, High), Superior, and Distinguished.
- LinkedIn: LinkedIn also has its own scale of language proficiency, which uses different titles but essentially mirrors the ILR scale.
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 applicant tracking system (ATS) scans.
You may also wish to include both a general descriptor as well as a more specific scale rating, in case the hiring manager is not familiar with the scale. You can also put the scale that you are using in parentheses to make it abundantly clear.
Additionally, keep in mind that you can either have your language skills formally evaluated or you can self-assess. If the job that you are applying for requires language skills, you may want to opt for a formal evaluation. If language skills aren’t strictly necessary but you still want to include them, a self-assessment of your proficiency is generally adequate. Specify on your resume whether you have an official certificate or if you have self-assessed.
Finally, use the scale that’s most relevant to the company. For example, if you are applying to a company within the United States, use the ILR scale over the CEFR scale.
Decide Where to Place Your Language Information
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 resume 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.
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 resume. 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 resume. 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.
Examples of How To List Language Skills
Finally, here are a few different examples of how to list language skills on your resume.
In your education section:
Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, 2010-2014
BA in Economics
Minored in Spanish (Conversational)
In your skills section:
- Microsoft Office Suite
- Adobe Creative Suite
- Italian (Proficient)
Or in a separate languages section:
- English - Native/Bilingual (ILR Level 5)
- Spanish - Native/Bilingual (ILR Level 5)
- French - Conversational (ILR Level 3)
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.
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