Resume Language Skills: Proficiency Levels & How to List

Resume Help

You may be wondering: If I speak a second language, should I include it on my resume? That is an excellent question! “One language sets you in a corridor for life,” psycholinguist Frank Smith famously said. Every door along the route is opened by two languages.”

Do you want your CV to help you get that job? Then you should definitely include a language component on your resume. Continue reading to find out how to increase your job application with resume language skills, including specific instructions on where to incorporate languages on a resume.

This language skills resume sample will demonstrate:

How to write language talents in resumes to make yourself stand out from the crowd.
How to describe language skills on a resume and calculate your level of fluency.
Examples of resumes at various levels of language proficiency.
What you should know about language competency levels, scales, and frameworks.

How to Describe Levels of Language Proficiency on a Resume

The Interagency Language Roundtable (ILR) contains six language skill levels (0-5) plus an extra “+” designation for those troublesome in-betweens.
The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) is a well-known scale that ranges from A1 (Elementary) to C2 (Proficient).
The language fluency levels on the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) scale are Novice (Low, Mid, High), Intermediate (Low, Mid, High), Advanced (Low, Mid, High), Superior, and Distinguished.
LinkedIn: This business network has its own language proficiency measure, which is very comparable to the ILR scale.
And here’s how the scores on the primary language scales compare:

How to Describe Levels of Language Proficiency: Resume Proficiency Scales

Always include your language competence levels on your CV. A list of languages with no explanation is useless to recruiters. Simply utilize the above-mentioned scales as resume language levels.

Pro Tip: If your language skills are comparable to those of a native speaker, describe yourself as near-native. You will not be lying on your resume, and your application may pass the automatic screening (if being a native speaker is critical for the position.)

How to List Languages on a Resume

Many people include language skills and levels of proficiency in their resume skills section, along with job-related hard skills and soft abilities like communication. The end result? They vanish into thin air! And you’ve put in a lot of effort and money to learn the language, right?

Make the recruiting manager hunt for a needle in a haystack by emphasizing your language skills. Languages in resumes can propel you to the top of a candidate pool.

Language resume skills constitute an excellent resume category area. Include any certificates you have (more on that later) in the certifications and licenses area.

Here’s how to list language abilities on a resume:

Make a separate area for your language skills.
After the basic resume sections, add the language skills section (heading, experience, skills, and education resume section).
List languages that you are proficient in using a single language framework.
Begin at the top with the language in which you are most fluent.
Language regional variants should be added if you specialize in them.
Languages that you just know at a beginner level should be avoided because they will not be relevant to employers.

Doesn’t that sound simple?

Here’s an example of how to list language skills on a resume:

Languages in Sample Resumes


American English—Native

Brazilian Portuguese—Fluent

Egyptian Arabic—Conversational

Bravanese Swahili—Limited functional proficiency

Recruiters will find it simple and straightforward.

You can also utilize well accepted frameworks to express your language abilities.

Examine the examples below:

Example of a Language Skills Resume

Level 5 English (ILR)
Level 4 Bengali (ILR)
Level 3 Mandarin (ILR)
Including the scale name next to the level helps recruiters understand which framework you’re referring to.

Here’s another example of a language resume abilities section:

Language Proficiency Levels in Resumes: Sample sRIGHT
Native/Bilingual American English (ILR Level 5)
Native/Bilingual Canadian French (ILR Level 5)
Full Professional Proficiency in Russian (ILR Level 4+)
Malay—Professional Working Capability (ILR Level 3)
This example combines LinkedIn language proficiency ratings and the ILR scale. If the recruiter submitted their job ad on this network, it’s a terrific method to proceed. Don’t forget to enhance your LinkedIn profile before applying!

Here’s another example to illustrate a different point:

Language Proficiency Levels in a Resume

RIGHT British English—Native/Bilingual Italian—C1 Diploma Polish—B2 Leve
That is for a European resume using the CEFR scale. Have you noticed the difference between the Italian and Polish languages? It means we received an official certificate of Italian C2 level, while our Polish was self-assessed as B2.

There is no single correct technique to add your language fluency levels. However, there are some faults that you can make, so exercise caution.

Maintain consistency by not combining language proficiency frameworks.
Use the most appropriate system: if you’re looking for work in the EU, use the CEFR levels.

Some people have used their years of language use to describe their proficiency, but this is a big no-no. Your three years of high school Spanish studies are frequently less successful than three months in Costa Rica.
A bilingual resume?

Being bilingual is a resume superpower, not merely a resume talent or a resume strength.

Mention it, especially since the need for bilingual workers has more than risen in recent years.

In addition to the language abilities area, emphasize your bilingualism in your resume summary or introduction.

How to Find Your Language Level of Fluency

In your resume, you state that your Spanish language level is communicative. That’s because you had a conversation with a waiter while on vacation in Mexico. Your supervisor now believes you can bargain with suppliers in Spanish, and you’re not sure how to tell them the truth.

In a resume, don’t just guess at your language level. You’ll either overestimate or underestimate your ability.

Instead, select one of two alternatives:

Official language certification is advantageous when the job requires the language in multiple contexts. Most language schools provide tests and certificates, and language certification can also be obtained online.

Self-assessment: To determine your level, follow the established recommendations for each framework. On their respective websites, you can learn more about the ILR scale, CEFR grading, and ACTFL scale.
Do I include my native language? Yes! It only takes one more line, yet leaving it out may be detrimental.

Key Takeaway

Keep the following in mind when adding language fluency levels to a resume skills section:

Add your language proficiency levels to their own section.
For fluency, use a language framework rather than your own words.
Choose the best language scoring system for your profession.
Maintain consistency and relevance across the language portion of your resume.
Instead of judging your competency, self-assess your skills.