Language Skills: How To Include Them & Why You Should
Written by James Bunes, Author • Last updated on April 25, 2024

Why you should include languages on your resume

Resume language skills are a smart addition to your future job applications. Showing employers your proficiency level in other languages shows them you’re dedicated, passionate, and have a keen memory. It’s also invaluable for bilingual roles or multinational companies. But you need to know how to do it right. Let’s learn more!

Why stating languages on your resume will benefit you

Resume language skills tell an employer a lot more than you think. 

Displaying your language proficiency can be a huge benefit to you and increase your chances of landing an interview. Here are a few advantages of listing your language skills on your resume:

  • Shows your dedication and commitment
  • Displays learning agility
  • Communicates your willingness to learn about other cultures
  • Helps you stand out from other, similar candidates

Let’s expand quickly on that last point.

It’s always good to stand out among other applicants, but language proficiency could be the one factor that raises you above other candidates. If your language ability could be the deciding factor for a hiring manager, it’s definitely worth your time to include it.

Employers want to know which languages you speak

From basic language know-how to full professional proficiency, employers want to know your language skills. Some companies simply appreciate having multilingual staff, but resume language skills are essential to get your foot in the door with international companies. 

For example, Chinese language skills put you ahead of other candidates for a Chinese company, even if the role doesn’t strictly need bilingual abilities. Further, language skills are invaluable to organizations opening their doors to new markets. This creates a demand for language skills because employees will need to communicate between the original team and the new branch, stakeholders, or customer base.

This would be worth bringing up in the job interview if you’re aware of their recent international expansion.

Expert Tip:

There are many standardized systems for ranking your language proficiency, but make sure you choose one and stick to it. It helps the hiring manager understand your abilities if you stay consistent. For example, if you rank your English skills with CEFR standards, use it for any other instances of language skills throughout your resume.

CEFR standards for languages

The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) is an international standard for describing language proficiency. Language ranking systems are beneficial for quickly conveying ability without subjective terms like “highly proficient.”

CEFR was created in the 1990s in an effort to standardize language learning for teachers across Europe. It’s commonly used for both teaching and employment assessment. The CEFR framework uses a language proficiency scale to measure ability and convey skills to employers. This enables them to quickly understand your level of competency.

Here’s a quick summary:

A1 Level

  • Beginner
  • Can speak basic words and phrases

A2 Level

  • Elementary
  • Can understand common phrases

B1 Level

  • Intermediate
  • Can handle simple situations that crop up while traveling abroad
  • Able to handle everyday events

B2 Level

  • Upper intermediate
  • Can understand complex ideas, abstract topics, and technical discussions related to their specific field

C1 Level

  • Advanced
  • Can understand a wide range of difficult topics and demanding, long text

C2 Level

  • Proficient
  • Can understand virtually everything spoken or written to them
  • Can summarize and translate text easily for others

CEFR rankings are measured by considering five different factors:

  • Listening
  • Reading
  • Spoken interaction
  • Spoken production
  • Writing

There are many online tests available to help you determine your CEFR proficiency level and many of them are free. We’ll discuss them more below.

Differences in the type of language proficiency on your resume

Depending on the role, it pays to know your individual proficiency types. 

Writing, reading, speaking, and listening are different skills and certain jobs are more demanding in specific areas – which means it’s crucial to know your individual proficiency if you want to apply for these roles. For example, are you intermediate in Spanish listening comprehension but only elementary in Spanish speaking ability? 

Here’s a clear explanation of what that means:

  • B1 Listening skills: I can understand the main points of speech on matters commonly encountered. Especially when the delivery is slow and clear.
  • A2 Speaking skills: I can communicate simple tasks, especially with familiar topics. I can handle quick exchanges, but can’t keep the conversation going myself.

An employer would like to hear this if you’ll have Spanish-speaking co-workers. This helps employers quickly understand if you’re a good candidate and puts you ahead of applicants who are vague.

How to write language skills in resumes

Now let’s check out some resume language skills examples.

There are a few acceptable ways to include resume language skills. For example, if you have formal certification of your language skills, you can list it in your education section. Some people also list language ability in their skills section, but this might be distracting if you have many skills to list. It can also distract recruiters if the language isn’t relevant to the position.

We recommend creating a separate languages section on your resume and including your known languages in a bullet list. Like this:

English – Native/Bilingual (CEFR C2)

  • French – Native/Bilingual (CEFR C2)
  • German – Intermediate (CEFR B1)

This is the most common way to list language proficiency.

If it’s highly relevant to the role, you can list different types of proficiency like this:

  • English: Writing / Speaking / Reading (C1)
  • French: Writing / Speaking / Reading (C1)
  • German: Writing / Reading (B1) / Speaking (A2)

Please note, we recommend you list this only if it’s relevant to the role. Otherwise, this format isn’t common.

Differences based on the job you are applying for

Language skills are a benefit to many jobs, but for some jobs language abilities are a demand and for some, they’re a plus.

Jobs that demand certain or multiple languages are generally roles that have “bilingual” in the job description. These jobs may have you actively, frequently communicating and collaborating with teammates who don’t speak any other languages. For example, a bilingual project manager needs multiple language skills to delegate tasks and communicate client needs.

If the role demands language skills, ensure you list them prominently. Include them in your professional summary and a separate language section.

On the other hand, jobs where language skills are a plus are roles where you’re working with international teammates who speak your language. This helps your communication, but it isn’t necessary.

It’s also useful if you need to collaborate with an international branch or speak casually with retail customers. For this type of job, including your resume language skills in a languages section at the bottom will suffice.

“Some companies simply appreciate having multilingual staff, but resume language skills are essential to get your foot in the door with international companies.”

Measuring language proficiency for your resume

There are several popular options for measuring your foreign language skills. The most common proficiency scales are:

  • Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR)
  • Inter-Agency Language Roundtable (ILR)
  • American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL)

We recommend using the CEFR scale, as it’s one of the most well-known language proficiency scales. Each of these proficiency scales has a variety of tests to determine your language levels, both paid and free, and online and in-person.

In general, these tests take thirty minutes to one hour to complete. For most job seekers, taking a free online test is enough to find their language fluency level. When you’re adding your language abilities to your resume to show your dedication and learning capability, you don’t necessarily need to commit to a formal test.

On the other hand, if language proficiency is a crucial addition to your resume it might be worth opting for a more extensive, paid test. For example, you would want a highly accurate evaluation of your skills if you’re shooting for a bilingual role.

Frequently asked questions about languages on your resume

What if I don’t speak a foreign language?

Even knowing a small amount of a foreign language is a bonus to your resume. Language proficiency shows dedication to learning new things and an interest in other cultures.

It might also interest an employer situated in certain areas. For example, a retail store near a Chinese neighborhood would like their employees to at least know basic greetings in Mandarin.

However, if you only speak your mother tongue, you can leave languages off your resume.

Is it important to put languages on my resume?

Yes. Listing language proficiency levels on your resume shows employers your learning agility, passion for different cultures, knowledge retention abilities, and communication skills. It helps you stand out from other candidates by showcasing key soft skills.

Listing language skills on your resume is essential if you’re applying for an international or bilingual role. It’s also a good idea if your target company is trying to expand to new markets.

Can I write languages on my resume with CVwizard?

Yes. Adding resume language skills is quick and easy with our resume templates.

Simply choose a resume template, click “Use template,” and begin to fill it out. Start with your personal details, education, employment history, and skills. 

Then click the drop-down arrow on the “Languages” tab. From here, type in the name of the language you know and choose from one of five proficiency levels:

  1. Beginner
  2. Moderate
  3. Good
  4. Very good
  5. Fluent

You can also hit the “Add language” button to add extra known languages. Head over to our resume templates to give it a try.

Start adding language skills to your resume

When job seekers take the time and effort to learn language skills, resumes should reflect it. Learning even basic language abilities and proficiency shows an employer your commitment to learning and a keen memory. It’s a great indicator of in-demand soft skills like communication and cultural competence.

Consider different ways to gauge your language proficiency levels, such as the popular CEFR scale, so you can confidently and accurately inform employers of your exact skill level. If you’re looking for a quick and easy way to build a resume with a simple, intuitive language section, try CVwizard’s Resume Builder.

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James Bunes
James Bunes
James Bunes, copywriter, editor, and strategist, combines job search and HR writing experience to produce actionable content on resumes, career advice, and job search tactics.

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