How to put languages on your CV

Are you updating your CV, or making one for the first time? Adding the languages you speak to your CV is a great way to set yourself apart from the crowd. Having your language proficiency levels on your CV is the easiest way to show off your different skills. You can get specific with which languages you speak and how well. It can be confusing knowing what to include, why you should add it, and how to fit it in. Don’t worry though, we’ve got you covered. We have all the best tips, so stick with us and you’ll have the best language-packed CV around!

What are language skills?

Language skills are your ability to speak, read, write, and understand a language. It could be your native language, like English, or a foreign language that you picked up along the way. You may also have a parent who speaks another language. If you grew up speaking two or more languages in your family, that makes you multilingual. Whatever your situation, having extra language skills on your CV is a great asset.

Should I add languages to my resume?

Communication is essential in pretty much any industry, and having that extra skill can really give you a leg up. It shows that you’re capable of complex learning, and you can juggle multiple things at once. You can also use extra skills to negotiate a better deal on your salary or benefits, since you can be even more valuable to the employer.

It’s not just which languages that matter on your resume, but also how well you speak them. Employers want to know whether you can hold a full-blown conversation with a foreign client, read over a legal document, or just have a vague understanding. It matters to them how they can put your skills to use, and having your language proficiency levels on your CV will give them a good understanding.

It’s also a nice way to show off your hobbies and interests, which gives the interviewer a better idea of the kind of person you are. It’ll give you some interesting talking points in the interview, which you can use to impress them.. Get your language proficiency levels on your resume, and you’ll likely boost your chances of landing the job.

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How to determine your language level for your CV

How exactly do you figure out what your language levels are for your CV? It’s tough to pinpoint how much of an expert you are with something like language, since there’s no box to tick to say ‘yes I’m fluent’. But, that doesn’t mean there aren’t guidelines on how to estimate your level of language skills for your CV. There are different frameworks to judge your fluency, depending on which language you’re talking about.

  • CEFR: the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages is the most widely-used language fluency system. You’re awarded a letter and number rating from A1 to C2, with A1 being beginner and C2 being fluent. It can be applied to pretty much any language, although some countries use it with more detail than others.
  • IELTS: if you want to rate your level of English, like if you’re new to the UK, you want to use the International English Language Testing System. It’s a standardised test that scores you from 1 to 9 based on your abilities in speaking English. You can also use it to gain work in other English-speaking countries.

These frameworks are very widely used, so you don’t have to worry about people understanding them. If you use one of them on your CV to show your language skills, your employer should know exactly what you mean. There are lots of resources online to help you figure out your level, so you don’t have to just pull it out of nowhere. You can also get certificates to show that you do actually speak the language to that level, which you can also add to your CV.

How do you write your language level on your CV

How exactly do you put languages on your CV? Is it as simple as just popping them down the bottom in a footnote? Definitely not, you want to display them in such a way that they catch the eye of the person reading your CV. Languages are a valuable skill, so you want them to be attention-grabbing and not easily missed.

It’s a good idea to dedicate a section of your resume to your language skills and levels, although it can be small. Adding them into a side column or in a small text box is the perfect way to show them off while still leaving space for all your other history, skills, and achievements. If you’re more of a visual person, you could use designs like bars to show off your level of fluency. Some other tips include:

  • Making a list of the languages you speak and your proficiency level;
  • Sticking to one framework to stay consistent;
  • Starting with your highest level of fluency (aka your native language).

We’ve come up with an example of how having languages on your CV might look, if you still need a bit of inspiration. You can follow this general format:

  • English - native (C2)
  • French - fluent (C1)
  • Dutch - professional proficiency (B2)
  • Spanish - conversational (A2)

If you only have one or two extra languages, you may not need to dedicate a whole section to it. Instead, you can add it into your ‘skills’ section, while still including the fluency level. Not having a big, long list of 50 languages isn’t a bad thing at all; if you can show off even a little bit of language skill on your CV, you’ll be a hit.

If the job you’re going for puts a lot of emphasis on language, you might want to put it further up the list. For example, if you’re applying for a position as a translator or interpreter, then you obviously want to flex your linguistic skills a bit more. In that case, you should put the important languages at the top of your CV, in their own section, so the recruiter or interviewer will see them straight away. You can also put some extra emphasis on them in your cover letter, so they get emphasised that bit more.

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Adding languages to your CV: in short

Having languages on your CV is a perfect way to let employers know you have extra skills and interests that put you ahead of the competition. You can incorporate them in a number of ways, depending on how many languages you speak and how much you want to show them off. It can be:

  • a list to the side;
  • its own section;
  • or added under another heading.

Just don’t forget to keep things short and sweet, because you don’t want to overwhelm the recruiter with a ton of information. Need some help crafting a new or your first CV? We’ve got plenty of tips on how to write a great CV, or you can try out our free CV builder. Just don’t forget to add all your relevant language skills to your stunning resume!

FAQs about languages on your CV

  • What languages should be on my CV?

  • You can add any languages you speak to your CV! Depending on the job you’re applying for, some may give you a better chance than others, but generally anything you have is an asset. It certainly won’t do you any harm, so add as many as you have!

  • What language skills are best on your CV?

  • It can depend on the job, but most employers want to mainly see speaking and writing language skills on your CV. If you’re only a proficient reader though, you should still add that in – it’s worth having every skill you’ve got on there!

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