“Can speak, read and write in French.”
Is that enough to show my resume language skills?
What would be the ideal description?
It’s standard to say that you are ‘fluent’ in Spanish, or you know ‘basic German’.
But, how can you make your resume stand out more?
Let’s get to the bottom of it.
In this resume language skills guide, you’ll learn:
- When should you include language skills on resume
- The most effective ways to describe a foreign language ability on a resume
- Examples of different levels of language proficiency from real resumes
- What official language scales exist and does it matter which one to use
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Do recruiters care about my language skills?
Short answer – they do.
But, they will not expect you to recite “War and Peace” in German to get the job.
It’s more about your ability to communicate with clients, fellow co-workers and management in day-to-day business operations.
Without this, many businesses won’t survive.
Therefore recruiters look for language skills to understand your communication skills in greater detail.
Language skills not only give you the building blocks to communicate with others, but it also comes with culture-specific knowledge, too.
This is becoming more and more important for businesses as the economy globalizes across all sectors.
When should I include language skills?
Writing your resume, you realise that space is a valuable real estate.
Every part of it should help you sell yourself to the future employer.
This is why you should always include your language skills only if that’s related to the job you want.
If speaking a foreign language is valuable for the company
This might seem like the obvious reason (because it is) but if your language skills are relevant to the job you’re hoping to undertake, you should include them.
Of note, however, this doesn’t just mean when the recruiter has included desired language capabilities in the job description. Think about what your day-to-day tasks will be in your role.
If you’re applying to be a retail assistant, how likely will it be that more than one language will help you communicate with customers?
If you’re working in customer support, how many countries is the company based in?
These are just some of the questions you should ask yourself.
A rule of thumb is, if you’re going to be working with the public as a key part of your role, your language skills are probably relevant.
In developing his customer support resume, Sia knew his ability to speak over three languages would make an impression on recruiters at SAP SE.
Example of resume language section built with Enhancv
If you have little experience
Language skills are great for adding content to your resume. If you’re putting together your first resume, or a student resume, language skills show your ability to learn quickly and your ability to apply knowledge to real-world situations.
In Avery’s volunteer resume, they highlighted their language skills as they were applying for a role with AIESEC, which has entities based all around the world.
Example of resume language section built with Enhancv
If the open position is competitive
Imagine the following scenario:
Both Tom and Emma are applying for the position of a Senior Marketing Manager at Etsy.
They’ve got the same amount of experience, and their skill set is fairly similar, too.
However, Emma mentioned that she’s fluent in French & German on her resume, while Tom didn’t.
Emma’s value proposition for the company increases exponentially, as there will be a lot of practical uses for her language skills.
Even though Tom’s language proficiency might be on par with Emma, he never bothered to show that – thus, his chances to get a callback get slimmer.
If you're applying for a job in a different country
As a foreign applicant, you’ll want the hiring manager to know as soon as possible that you won’t have any language barriers.
If you have to demonstrate quick-learning skills
When learning about a lot of new things will be a part of your job, you can turn the experience you have with languages into your advantage.
You’ll benefit from showing your quick learning skills through language fluency in many areas:
- Research and organisation fields
- Program and project management jobs
- Communication & marketing related roles
Don’t include your language skills on your resume if…
If any of the above scenarios are not true for you, you’d better skip on adding languages on your resume.
The same applies if you’re a monoglot, meaning someone who only speaks one language. Simply put, the recruiter will assume proficient language skill in the language your resume is written in.
There’s no need to state you’re a fluent English speaker if you live in a predominantly English speaking country and your resume is written in English.
This will unnecessarily take up space on your resume and affect your resume length.
Where should I include language skills?
Where you place your language skills on your resume will differ depending on the level of language proficiency you have and the relevance of your language skills to your position.
If language skills are essential for your position, dedicate a specific section to discussing them (as shown previously).
However, if language skills are merely preferable or not necessarily relevant to your position, you can include them as part of your education or previous experience.
How do I describe my language skill level?
Looking at language skill levels, more questions than answers appear:
- Does proficient and fluent mean one and the same thing?
- When should I write one or the other?
- Will they understand that I can read and write if I’m at an intermediate level?
We’ll start by understanding what the different language levels mean.
Picking your level
Without describing your level of language skill, there’s no sense in including it in your resume. This plays off a similar premise to quantifying your achievements in different resume headings. The recruiter needs a tangible way of judging your ability.
A beginner language skill ability can be used if you’re starting to learn a new language. You might know some basic words and phrases, but you have no real understanding of grammar.
An intermediate language skill refers to being able to speak a language but with some difficulty. You can’t speak with the speed of a native and your vocabulary is somewhat limited. However, you’re able to hold conversations in the language and have adequate reading proficiency.
A proficient language skill refers to an ability to speak, write, and read a language without much difficulty at all. You don’t foresee yourself having an issue using the languages listed in your role, however, you’re not fluent. You may need native speakers to repeat things and may struggle understanding colloquialisms.
A fluent language skill means you can read, write, and speak a language fluidly and without hesitation.
A native language skill refers to a language you have grown up speaking. As far as you remember, this is a language you always have been able to communicate with. You have spent your life speaking this language and have honed in on your ability to communicate with it through formal education and so on.
There are formally accepted language skill frameworks.
You can consult the American Council for the Teaching of Foreign Languages or the US Department of State to choose the level that represents your skill best.
For those including English as a language skill, you may go to an open-access test, the EFSET.
What’s more, a growing number of recruiters use LinkedIn’s own scale that has 5 proficiency levels:
- Limited Working
- Professional Working
- Full Professional
Easily describe your language proficiency with Enhancv’s online resume builder. Drag the bar to show your language level, and use the small text to identify exactly how fluent you are.
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Mistakes to avoid when including your language skills
When it comes down to it, there is no reason to lie about your language ability on your resume.
Not only will recruiters void your application should they suspect you’re lying, but it doesn’t add any value.
If a particular language skill is required for your role and you lie about your ability, you won’t be able to perform in your role. Thus, applying for this position will be a waste of your time.
On the other hand, if you lie about a language skill and it isn’t relevant for your role, it’s not going to make an impression on the recruiter. Honesty is the best policy.
Forgetting to update LinkedIn
If you’re discussing your language skills on your resume, be sure to update your LinkedIn profile with this information, too.
One advantage of updating your language skill on LinkedIn is you can have colleagues provide recommendations and references of your ability in this skill.
Using too much space for languages when they are not important
This one goes without saying, but if a language will not have a significant impact on your job, then don’t spend too much time on it in a huge section.
Of course, if you have formally studied a foreign language, you can always include it in your education or experience section.
Forgetting to include your mother language
Add your native language, alongside the foreign languages you know.
Otherwise, you’ll confuse recruiters, especially if you’re applying for a job abroad.
Don't mix and match different language frameworks
Consistency is important.
Don’t go about saying you’re B2 in Russian and AH in Spanish.
Know the company you’re applying for. If it’s a US-based one, go with the ACTFL.
If you’re not sure how different levels from different continents compare with each other, check out this Wikipedia article that compares CEFR and ACTFL frameworks.
Key takeaways: language skills on resumes
When deciding to include language skills on your resume, the most important thing to consider is relevance.
Language skills can have a major influence on the recruiter calling you for an interview, but the same cannot be said when language skills aren’t relevant to your position.
Another aspect to keep in mind is your level of language skill. Recruiters will want to know to what degree you’re skilled in languages you mention.
Any thoughts or remarks on resume language skills? What are the most distinguishable ways you’re talking about language skills on your resume? Let us know in the comments below!
How would you describe your language fluency? ›
You can describe your language skills as Basiс, Conversational, Fluent, or Proficient. Basic – you can communicate on simple topics or know some phrases in this language. Conversational – you can communicate on everyday topics with minor grammar or vocabulary mistakes but you can't write in this language.How would you describe your English language proficiency? ›
There are alternatives as far as the proficiency phrasing goes, as well: Advanced: native, fluent, proficient, advanced, mother tongue, upper-intermediate. Mid-range: intermediate, conversational, competent, professional. Beginner: elementary, beginner, basic, pre-intermediate, limited working proficiency.How do I add fluency to my resume? ›
If language skills are important for the position you're applying to, or it can majorly benefit your employer, add the section right after the resume summary. After the Work Experience section. If your language level is not essential for the job, but more like a bonus skill, add it to the lower section on your resume.Is language proficiency the same as fluency? ›
In summary, fluency is the ability to speak smoothly, while proficiency is the ability to use and understand language accurately.How do you describe proficiency level? ›
Using a consistent and clear metric, rate your level of expertise for each hard skill and language on your resume. It's important to show your proficiency so that others will immediately understand, and using words like beginner, intermediate, proficient, and expert are commonly used for this purpose.What is the difference between fluent and proficient on resume? ›
To state you are proficient means you are comfortable with the use of the language in spoken and written form but not at the same level as a native speaker. Fluent – Assessing your skill level as fluent means your use of the language is fluid not halting.How do you say you can speak a language but not fluently? ›
In terms of language, the “proficient” label can therefore be seen as referring to a speaker who, while very skilled in the use of a language, uses the language with greater formality and less familiarity than a native or fluent speaker.Should I put English as a language on my resume? ›
Absolutely, you should include language skills on your resume. This includes mentioning whether you are a beginner, intermediate, advanced, fluent, or a native speaker of a foreign language. Displaying your language abilities on a resume gives you an advantage over your competition.How would you describe an English language learner? ›
English-language learners, or ELLs, are students who are unable to communicate fluently or learn effectively in English, who often come from non-English-speaking homes and backgrounds, and who typically require specialized or modified instruction in both the English language and in their academic courses.What can I say instead of proficient on resume? ›
Is it better to be proficient or fluent? ›
Proficient is less advanced than fluent
According to this document, a "Proficient" speaker "is very skilled in the use of a language but who uses the language less easily and at a less-advanced level than a native or fluent speaker".
The term "levels of fluency" refers to predetermined levels of language skills that correlate with a person's proficiency when speaking, writing and reading a foreign language. Your level of fluency on a resume helps potential employers decide whether or not you're qualified for a specific job position.What are the 3 levels of proficiency? ›
The CA ELD Standards define three proficiency levels—Emerging, Expanding, and Bridging*—to describe the stages of English language development through which ELs are expected to progress as they improve their abilities in listening, speaking, reading, and writing English.What language level is considered fluent? ›
Reaching B2 is generally considered by most people as having basic fluency. You'll have a working vocabulary of around 4000 words. It's not always effortless and it's not always perfect, but neither you nor your native speaking partners are having a really hard time in most circumstances at this point.How do you answer English proficiency level? ›
You can say, for example, that your level of proficiency in writing English is B2, whereas your spoken English is C1. The CEFR also helps you to give a very detailed description of your language skills if you are applying for a job for which languages are a key aspect of the job.How do you write a skills summary on a resume? ›
An effective resume summary follows this formula: Professional Title (if relevant) + Key Experiences (with the total number of years worked) + Top Achievements (preferably measurable results) + Top Skills/Expertise/Unique Values (relevant to the job and industry).What are the four skills you need to be proficient at a language? ›
When we say that someone 'speaks' a language fluently, we usually mean that they have a high level in all four skills – listening, speaking, reading and writing.What are the levels of skill proficiency? ›
- NA - Not Applicable.
- 1 - Fundamental Awareness (basic knowledge)
- 2 - Novice (limited experience)
- 3 - Intermediate (practical application)
- 4 - Advanced (applied theory)
- 5 - Expert (recognized authority)
SUMMARY: This article examines and argues in favor of assessing English-language proficiency using a comprehensive four-skill assessment (i.e., listening, speaking, reading and writing) rather than just a select subset of those skills.How do you list language proficiency? ›
- English — Native/Bilingual (ILR Level 5)
- Spanish — Native/Bilingual (ILR Level 5)
- French — Professional Proficiency (ILR Level 4+)
- German — Professional Working Proficiency (ILR Level 3)
What is it called when you speak a language well? ›
Someone who is fluent in a particular language can speak the language easily and correctly. You can also say that someone speaks fluent French, Chinese, or some other language. She studied eight foreign languages but is fluent in only six of them. fluency uncountable noun.How do you say I speak more than one language? ›
A bilingual person is someone who speaks two languages. A person who speaks more than two languages is called 'multilingual' (although the term 'bilingualism' can be used for both situations).How do you list bilingual in a job description? ›
If the job posting doesn't mention the need for bilingual skills, you can list these in your skills section along with your other relevant skills. You can also mention your bilingual abilities at the top in the summary section.How would you describe the language? ›
language, a system of conventional spoken, manual (signed), or written symbols by means of which human beings, as members of a social group and participants in its culture, express themselves.What are English Language Learners called now? ›
LEP – Limited English Proficient. LEP is an acronym used at the federal level to describe English language learners who participate in ESL programs.What is the new term for English Language Learners? ›
Texas Administrative Code (TAC) Chapter 89 used the term English Language Learner (ELL) but in recent revisions updated to the term English Learner (EL) in alignment with the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Effective September 1, 2021, the agency will use Emergent Bilingual as per the 87th Legislative Session.Should you put fluent in English on resume? ›
“It really depends on if it's important to your role,” says the career expert. If you're fairly proficient in a language but it has no bearing on the job to which you are applying, don't bother adding it to your resume, says Augustine.What are the 4 levels of language proficiency? ›
There are four domains to language proficiency: reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Language proficiency is measured for an individual by each language, such that the individual may be proficient in English and not proficient in another language.”How would you describe oral fluency? ›
Oral fluency refers to how smoothly and quickly a reader can read connected material aloud and how much expression the reader has in reading the passage. This measure of pitch, stress, and timing is also called prosody. Oral fluency is an intermediary step in reading comprehension.What are the examples of language proficiency? ›
There are four domains to language proficiency: reading, writing, speaking, and listening.
What level of proficiency is fluent? ›
5 - Primary fluency / bilingual proficiency. Level five means you are entirely fluent in a language. You were raised speaking the language or have spoken it long enough to become proficient in it. Your accent is either nonexistent or barely recognizable.How do you describe skill proficiency? ›
Proficient: when you're proficient in a skill, you can work independently on projects, completing them efficiently and to a high standard. You're now equipped to deal with more complex tasks and have confidence in your abilities. 4.How do you say good English skills on a resume? ›
Tell them about your certification
It is not enough to simply list English as a skill because your potential employer cannot assess how well you speak the language. If you have a language certificate, state your level and give an idea of what that means – i.e. beginner, intermediate, upper intermediate, fluent.
The Common European Framework Reference for Languages (CEFR) scale measures language abilities in six levels — A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, and C2. The A levels represent basic language users, the B levels represent independent language users, and the C levels represent proficient language users.How do you demonstrate fluency? ›
One of the hallmarks of fluent reading is establishing a consistent rhythm and pace that guides students through a text. This doesn't need to be fast and in the beginning new readers should have the option to start slow and increase their pace as they become more comfortable.How do you use fluency in a sentence? ›
She speaks with great fluency. Students must demonstrate fluency in a foreign language to earn a degree. a dancer known for her fluency and grace He plays the piano with speed and fluency.
Fluent readers read aloud effortlessly and with expression. Their reading sounds natural, as if they are speaking. Readers who have not yet developed fluency read slowly, word by word. Their oral reading is choppy.