How to list languages on your CV.

In today’s interconnected world, with organisations doing business across the globe, the ability to speak more than one language can give you a definite edge. Language skills are in demand for positions of every level, from customer service and support teams, to directors of multinational corporations.

When considering whether to mention your level of competency in a language on your CV, factor in how skilled you are in all four areas of use:

  • Speaking.
  • Listening.
  • Reading and Writing.

It’s one thing to hold an amicable conversation in your second language, but quite another to read a complex legal document, or even reply to an email professionally.

Describing your language skill level.

There are a number of internationally-recognised competency scales, however, here’s an easy way for you to estimate your level:

Beginner or elementary level.

You may be able to use it for survival when on vacation or in simple conversations with native speakers. You should also consider yourself at Level 1 if you studied a language several years earlier, and haven’t used or worked on it since.

In reality, this level is unlikely to add strength to your CV, so it’s not worth including.

Basic working knowledge.

You may be able to use the language with a degree of fluency, but vocabulary and grammatical accuracy are limited. This too is not worth including on your CV.

Working competence.

You can use the language in most professional situations, although with complex exchanges, you still need support. This information can be a good addition to your CV.

Full professional competence.

You can handle any situation in the language, and use it with fluency and accuracy of grammar and tone - this can make a strong addition to your CV.

Native speaker.

At this level people assume that you have used the language all your life. Your accent is close to that of a native. Definitely include this on your CV.

Where to include languages on your CV.

This depends on how you’ve used them and whether they are a specific requirement of the role you’re applying for. If it’s important for the role, you may choose to mention your language skill in more than one section.

With your work experience.

If you’ve already used your skill in a working context, mention it. For example:

  • ‘Led customer-support team for Spanish-speaking customers’,
  • ‘Successfully concluded negotiations with Mandarin-speaking vendors’.

With your education.

If you’re certified at a certain level in the language, this would be a good place to list it.

With your special skills or additional information.

This is a good option if speaking the language is a hobby or interest.

In a dedicated section or sidebar.

If the role requires competence of a language, in a sidebar or dedicated section will easily highlight that you meet the recruiter’s requirements.

Make every word count.

The ability to operate professionally in two or more languages is a strength that you shouldn’t underestimate.

Even if it isn’t specifically a requirement of the position you’re applying for, highlighting your language skills on your CV can put you ahead of other candidates and increase your chances of that all-important interview invitation.

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