Languages on Your CV: How and Why to Add Them

Languages on Your CV: How and Why to Add Them

Foreign language skills can be a huge asset for any jobseeker. In an increasingly diverse and international labour market, employers often require candidates to have additional language skills. However, speaking a foreign language can be an asset for any role, even if it’s not mentioned in the job description. In this article, we discuss why it’s important to list your language skills on your CV, and how to list them for maximum impact.

Why stating languages on your CV will benefit you

If a job requires you to speak a foreign language, it’s clearly necessary to state your skills in that language on your CV. However, the benefits of including languages on your CV go far beyond simply ticking a box to show you qualify for a role. Even for roles that don’t require foreign languages, employers are likely to be impressed if you can show you’re bilingual or multilingual.

Speaking a foreign language shows your willingness and ability to learn. It can also show cultural awareness and a desire to expand your horizons. Additionally, studies show that learning a foreign language enhances cognitive ability, flexibility and problem-solving skills.  These are all soft, transferable skills that make you more employable for almost any role, and that employers are likely to favour.

Employers want to know what languages you speak

If you have any foreign language skills, it’s a good idea to mention them on your CV, regardless of the role you’re applying for. Employers like seeing this sort of information on CVs, as it helps to differentiate candidates who might otherwise have similar qualifications and experience. If two applicants have the same skills, work experience and qualifications, but one is bilingual, the additional language skills might swing the decision.

You don’t need to be fluent to add your language skills to your CV. Any level of proficiency can be useful, both for your chances of success, and in the role itself. Of course, some jobs require people to speak more than one language. This is usually to communicate with overseas colleagues, stakeholders or customers. Foreign language skills can also increase your chances of gaining employment in other countries, broadening your horizons and your potential employment opportunities.

Expert tip:

Don’t be shy about including your language skills on your CV, even if they’re quite basic. Any foreign language skills are a positive for most employers. They show your willingness and ability to learn, and your interest in foreign culture. Whether the role requires it or not, these are soft skills that employers tend to value.

CEFR standards for languages

If you want to list languages on your CV, but you’re unsure of how to reference your level of competence, there’s a standard framework you can use. The Council of Europe developed the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) as a way of distinguishing between language ability levels. The framework is widely recognised across the UK and Europe, and you can use it on your CV to indicate your language abilities to employers.

These are the six levels of language ability, defined by the CEFR:

A1 level – beginner

This is the most basic level of language competence. It includes an understanding of simple words and expressions, such as greetings, introductions and questions about personal details. People with A1 skills can communicate if the conversation is slow and clear. 

A2 level – elementary

The elementary level includes the ability to communicate in various everyday settings, such as shops, work and the family environment. It allows people to carry out tasks that require direct exchanges of information. With this skill level, you may also be able to communicate complex concepts in simple terms.

B1 level – intermediate

At intermediate level you can understand topics related to family, school and work. You can also describe events, experiences, plans and personal feelings. Intermediate level also includes basic writing on subjects that interest you personally. 

B2 level – upper intermediate

If you’ve reached upper intermediate level, you can understand the context of complex texts, and interact freely and without prompts, without experiencing too many problems. You can also write extensively on various topics. 

C1 level – advanced

The advanced level requires people to understand longer, more complex texts or conversations. At this level you can also express ideas without too many mistakes or misunderstandings, as well as writing structured, detailed texts on various subjects.

C2 level – mastered

At the mastery level, you can understand almost everything you read and hear. You can also summarise information from different sources in a coherent and detailed presentation.

Differences in type of language proficiency on your CV

You can use the levels above to describe your language skills on your CV. If you’re fluent, you’re likely to have C2 skills. If you’re just able to get by in polite conversation while on holiday in a foreign country, your skills are far more likely to fall into the A1 or A2 categories. Any language skills you have will enhance your CV and improve your employability, so don’t be shy about mentioning even basic language skills.

Depending on the way you’ve learned your foreign languages, you may have a difference in your levels of proficiency between speaking, listening, reading and writing. If you’ve studied your language academically, your skills in each of these disciplines are likely to be relatively balanced. However, if you’ve learned less formally, such as from a family member or by spending time living in a country, you might have better skills in one area. You can adapt the way you list your language skills on your CV to reflect this.

How to write languages on your CV

To make the biggest impact with employers when writing about your language skills on your CV, use the CEFR standards as a reference. This is particularly useful if foreign languages are a requirement for the role, or if you’re applying to work for an international organisation. You will often find CEFR standards listed in the job description for these roles.

Here’s an example of how to list your languages in your CV, with CEFR standards:

German (B2)
French (A2)
Spanish (A1)

If you want to be clear that you have stronger skills in one element than another, split your language skills out in your CV. You might not need to split every category out, just separate any that are different from the rest. For example, you could write the following:


  • French: speaking, listening, reading – B2, writing – A2
  • Arabic: A1

For roles where languages aren’t a requirement, you might want to refer to your language skills in more simple terms. These could include ‘beginner’, ‘intermediate’, ‘competent’, ‘fluent’ and ‘native’. It’s worth remembering that if you’re applying for a job abroad, you should list your native language as well as any additional languages you speak.

Where to List Languages on Your CV

The most common placement for the languages section is at the end of your CV. Because, for most job applications, this is an optional section of your CV, it’s best to include your languages below your work experience, education and skills.

If language skills are an essential requirement for the role, you might want to reference your language skills elsewhere in your CV. For example, consider mentioning it in your personal statement or CV summary, as one of your key skills. You could also mention it in your skills section, or if you’ve used your languages in previous roles, you could mention it in one of the bullet points in your work experience section.

"You don’t need to be fluent to add your language skills to your CV. Any level of proficiency can be useful, both for your chances of success, and in the role itself."

Measuring Language Proficiency for Your CV

If you’re not sure which level of proficiency your language skills fall under, there are various ways to find out. For most roles where languages aren’t an essential requirement, an estimate of your skill level will usually suffice.

However, if the employer lists languages in the key skills in the job description, you might need to include a CEFR rating for your skills. You can assess your skill level using various free online tools and tests. You can also have your language skills officially certified through recognised test providers.

Key Takeaways for Including Languages on Your CV

Adding languages to your CV can make a big difference to your chances of success in the job market. They can show your ability to learn, problem-solving skills and cultural awareness, and they can be a big asset for companies that trade internationally. When adding your language skills to your CV, list them in their own section and clearly reference your skill levels.

CVwizard has various CV templates that can help you to organise and present your CV in an eye-catching, professional style. You can also find a wealth of CV articles, with tips to help you craft a CV that makes the best possible impact. Sign up today and follow the simple steps to create your winning CV.

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