How to Include Language Skills on Your Resume (With Examples)
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Possessing proficiency in multiple languages can open a range of professional opportunities. When applying for jobs, listing your language skills on your resume can help make your resume more noticeable to an employer. The position you apply for may require knowledge of a certain language or it may be a nice benefit for the employer you possess these skills. In this article, we explain what resume language skills are and how to effectively highlight your language skills on your resume.
What are resume language skills?
Language skills are the additional languages you are proficient in besides the language your resume is written in. If you are applying for a job in the U.S., your resume will most likely be in English, which will show your comprehension of American English. The language skills on your resume could include any other languages in which you have intermediate, advanced, proficient or native comprehension abilities.
Why are language skills important?
Communication is a critical part of any job, and depending on the role, you may need to communicate with colleagues, managers or customers. Recruiters often look for language skills because they show your ability to communicate with a diverse range of people. They also show hard work and dedication to learning something new and challenging.
Knowing a second language shows cultural knowledge, which is an important tool to have since businesses are globalizing across all industries. Already knowing the language of a country that your prospective employer works in can help your resume stand out. Besides being able to communicate with their international partners, you may also know their cultural customs and be able to interact with them in a culturally appropriate manner.
Language skills can help advance your career in several ways. You can build relationships directly with the employer’s international contacts without going through a translator. As individuals and families mobilize to new countries, small domestic employers will benefit from being able to communicate directly with their clients. Regardless of the languages you speak or your professional industry, language skills can help grow your professional network, allow for more job opportunities and show your soft skills.
When to include language skills on a resume
As you prepare a new resume for an employer, consider how the additional languages you speak will apply to the business. If they are listed as a job requirement for the position, then highlight your language skills prominently on your resume. Even if not required, you can always list languages in the skills section of your resume.
If language requirements are not explicitly listed in the job description, research the company location and where they conduct business internationally. For example, a business that works with Chinese agencies might benefit from someone familiar with Mandarin and Chinese cultural customs. If the role involves working with members of the public, language skills are beneficial to include on your resume.
Related: 6 Universal Rules for Resume Writing
Language comprehension levels
Before listing languages on your resume, review your speaking, reading and listening comprehension of the language. The language level descriptions below can help you determine whether you are a beginner, intermediate or fluent language speaker. Alternatively, you can take a self-assessment from The Interagency Language Roundtable (ILR). The ILR was developed for the U.S. government to establish language proficiency standards and operates on a scale of 0-5 with “+” designations for those in-between language levels. If you use the ILR language scale, add the ILR denotation on your resume so the employer knows the standard by which you are determining your skills.
Beginner: The beginner language skill level covers those who are just starting to learn a new language. They know some basic words and phrases, but would not be able to create a grammatically correct sentence or carry on a conversation with someone in that language.
Intermediate: An intermediate language speaker can hold a basic conversation in the language while speaking at a slower pace than a native speaker and requiring some repetition to understand the conversation. They have limited vocabulary knowledge, understand grammatical rules and have adequate reading abilities.
Proficient: A proficient language ability involves the ability to speak, read and write the language with minimal difficulty. Proficient speakers can hold a conversation with a native speaker easily but may need some things repeated or colloquialisms explained. A proficient skill level means they are able to converse in the language
Fluent: A fluent language speaker can comfortably speak, write and understand the language with ease. They have full knowledge of the language, including colloquialisms, but are not native speakers of the language.
Native: A native language ability refers to a language you grew up speaking and have mastered all aspects of, including grammar, complex concepts and extensive vocabulary.
How to list resume language skills
Once you establish your language comprehension levels, you are ready to list your skills on your resume. Besides a section for language skills, you may also highlight them at the top of your resume in your summary.
If the language skills are critical for the job you are applying for, such as a Certified Nursing Assistant, you might begin your summary with “Bilingual CNA with 7 years of experience in a hospital setting.” This will draw immediate attention to your language skills, then the employer can review your languages or skills section for further details.
Here are three steps to follow to add language skills to your resume:
1. Determine the language rating system you will use
Depending on the job requirements, a basic note after each language using the beginner to native scale listed above can be sufficient. If you have taken the ILR assessment, you may include the ILR rating after the language. To determine whether the basic or ILR scale is better for your resume, review the company’s requirements and international business prospects. If a designated proficiency level is listed on the job description, be sure to list your language rating following the scale they used on the posting. A resume for a position that does not interact with international clients regularly might not require a formal rating scale.
If your comprehension levels vary among speaking, reading and listening, you may need to list each rating separately, but if you have a similar rating across all categories, you can choose an average and list this on your resume to save space. Be prepared to speak to your abilities during the interview and show proof of your comprehension level.
2. Choose where you will include languages on your resume
Your language abilities can be listed under your skills, education or as its own section, depending on the position and the number of languages you speak. If you speak several languages or if knowledge of a particular language is critical for the role, you can create a separate section on your resume to highlight your language abilities.
If you speak one additional language or your languages are not important for the position, adding them to your skills section can help you save space on your resume. Alternatively, you might list them under your education section if you are listing relevant courses and took language classes in school.
3. Format your languages section
The format of your language section will depend on the format of the rest of your resume and your industry. This section needs to be cohesive with the other sections on your resume and can be highlighted or bolded in a variety of ways to make it stand out if it is critical for the position. If you add your languages to the skills section, use another bullet or line in that section.
When listing multiple languages, start with the language you are most proficient in and list them in descending order of proficiency. You can format your language skills into an infographic or as a separate box-section if it will be cohesive with your resume format.
Example language skills resume section
Here are three examples of how to list language skills on a resume:
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)
Polish — Fluent
Spanish — Proficient
Dutch — Proficient
Russian — Intermediate
Spanish — proficient
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