Best 5 Ways to Highlight Language Skills on Your Resume

Written by
Rebecca Smith

Mar 30, 2021

Mar 30, 2021 • by Rebecca Smith

Statistics from the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACFTL) revealed that nine out of ten US companies rely on employees who have oral language skills other than English. Job candidates with these skills will stand apart from those candidates who don’t. That’s why it's best to showcase these strengths in an honest and compelling way.

Read further on our five top tips on how to describe professional language fluency on your resume. Use these tips today and your resume will rise to the top of the “to hire” stack!

1. When You Should Include Language Skills

If the job posting requires fluency in a non-English language, naturally highlight this talent on your resume. List the talent if the job post asks for it.

Research the company to see where they have a business presence. If they have significant business activity in China, for example, list your Mandarin-speaking language skills. If a company works primarily with the public, include those languages you know that serve these populations.

2. Where You Should Insert Language Skills 

Where you insert your language skills depends on what kind of job you’re looking for. For example, if you are applying for a court interpreter position, list your skills at the top or in your summary section because the spoken language is primary to the job. List any classes earned as an interpreter major in the “education” section.

If you are applying for a back-up customer service role, include your language skills in the “work experience” section. This would apply because those skills aren’t essential to someone who occasionally serves the public.

3. List Proficiency Level/s

Language proficiency levels describe how well a candidate can read, write or speak a non-English language. These levels include the following:

  • Bilingual or Native Speaker: This level means the candidate has mastered this language through training or their childhood.
  • Intermediate (B1)/Upper-intermediate (B2): These candidates can conduct a basic conversation but will make occasional grammar mistakes.
  • Fluent/Proficient(C2): These candidates have mastered reading and writing in this language and are capable of using colloquialisms effectively.

4. Consider Referencing Language Proficiency Tests Scores

There are several professional language tests you can use to quantify your language proficiency. Here are some examples below:

American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL)

ACTFL proficiency tests are often requested by government agencies and private corporations. They administer tests in more than 100 different languages.

Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR)

CEFR measures proficiency with foreign languages spoken throughout Europe. The CEFR is also a helpful tool to evaluate language qualifications for university admissions.

Interagency Language Roundtable (ILR)

These assessments gauge different levels of proficiency with reading, writing, listening, and speaking. These results are used by public sector employees only.

5. Add Non-work Examples of Your Experience

To further demonstrate your language skills, you can also include non-work-related experience. Include those roles where your ability to read, write, and speak the language were required.

These experiences might include internships or volunteering jobs abroad. While assessments are helpful, some employers might want to see external confirmation of your language skills in motion.

What’s Your Next Step?

Ready to highlight your language skills? Read any job announcements you’re applying for and try to consider the best resume section to highlight your skills. Based on the potential job type or location, consider signing up for one of the proficiency exams to measure your skills.

Don’t forget to check out our website for more helpful career insights. Let us help you put your best professional self forward!