Language Skills on a CV

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In today’s ever-developing, international environment, languages skills on a CV are an eye-catcher. Languages are not useful for merely one type of job, as in any job you may have to speak a different language or encounter a client or colleague who can’t speak the language others in the work environment speak. Languages are a transferable skill and considered useful in your work experience.

This CV writing guide explains how you should list language skills on a CV, where to put language skills on a CV and how to include foreign languages on a CV.

Should I put languages on my CV?

Providing you have them, yes! If you are lucky enough to have learnt or be bilingual in a foreign language, you should always list languages on your CV.

Languages skills are a transferable skill and therefore, always acceptable to list on a CV.

Learning languages is also a way of opening your mind and learning about other cultures. The benefits of learning a language are more than just that of being able to communicate with another society. Through communicating with an unfamiliar community, you subconsciously learn a multitude of things:

  • Appreciate other cultural backgrounds
  • Learn more about geography, history, politics, literature and much more which helps you to understand more about the world
  • Have more information and understanding which enables you to analyse and reflect openly
  • Become more independent, flexible and self-reliant
  • Improve communication skills
  • Cooperate well with others
  • Pick up other languages more easily

Where to put language skills on a CV

Languages, just like any other skill, should be listed in the skills section on a CV. However, in the case that you are applying for a job which involves the use of foreign languages, you may wish to distinguish between your languages and other skills.

You can create a languages section and depending on instructions from recruiters, specify your levels in reading, writing, speaking and listening. In Europe, the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages is used to analyse and evaluate your language skills.

If you are applying for a job which doesn’t require the use of a foreign language, but complements the job role, you can leave your language skills in the skills section of your CV.

A professional CV template can help you to highlight the skills you wish to distinguish. Presenting your language can be done easily when using an online CV builder.

How to include foreign languages on your CV

Once you have decided whether it is better to list your languages under the skills section, or create a separate section, you need to know how to list languages clearly and concisely. Presenting your language on a good CV layout can be done in a variety of ways. All you need to do is choose a method and make sure you keep this assessment method consistent.

It can be difficult to self-assess yourself and know which levels or grades to use. There is more than one way of evaluating your language skills. You can use the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages which is recognised across Europe, or alternatively you can grade them on a beginner to advanced scale.

language skills cv

It’s important to mention that you don’t require an official language certificate in order to be able to specify at which level you speak a language.

Identifying whether you are fluent in a language:

It can be difficult to summarise fluency of a language, or even identify fluency at all. While some may have high expectations of fluency (perfect accent etc.), you don’t have to be a perfect speaker to be classed as a fluent speaker.

In general, the definition of fluency is fluid and coherent language without obstacles in understanding or communicating. You may also find that fluency can range across the four types of language skills: reading, writing, listening and speaking.

For example, you may have fluency in reading, yet find speaking more difficult.

It is not recommendable to include anything below an intermediate level when you write your CV, as beginner language is often not useful in many work sectors. However, depending on the job, you may feel it beneficial to include all you languages and their levels.

You can use the following guide to grade your language skills on your CV:

  • Beginner
  • Elementary
  • Pre-intermediate
  • Intermediate
  • Upper-intermediate
  • Advanced

Professional platforms such as LinkedIn use other grading systems:

  • Elementary proficiency
  • Limited working proficiency
  • Professional working proficiency
  • Full professional proficiency
  • Native or bilingual proficiency

Another option for listing languages is listing the amount of time you have spent studying the language. For example, if you have no qualifications in German, but have been studying it for ten years, it’s worth mentioning!

Do not lie on your CV about your language skills!

Similarly to any other skills, qualification or element included on a CV, you shouldn’t lie on your CV. Lying on a CV also includes white lies such as adjusting your skill level or tweaking a qualification grade. It’s not worth upping your grades and stating that your Spanish is fantastic, to then find out that your interviewer is Spanish. Not only is it incredibly awkward, but you probably won’t be getting a call back, either.

More than anything, recruiters appreciate honesty. It’s important to be honest and show hiring managers that you can be trusted. Forming a relationship on trust and honesty is key to building a good relationship with prospective employers.

So as tempting as it may feel to bump up your Italian skills or boast about your French, don’t lie about your language skills on your CV!

Last modified on 15 October 2020

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