How to List Language Proficiency Levels & Skills on Resume?

October 27, 2023

Your resume is a crucial tool for presenting your qualifications and experiences to potential employers.

Among the various components of a resume, language skills can be a valuable asset, and knowing how to list them effectively is essential.

This article will guide you through the importance of language skills on a resume, where to include them, and the best practices for conveying your proficiency levels.

Are Language Skills Important for a Resume?

Language skills are indeed crucial for your resume, but their significance can vary depending on the job you’re applying for and the industry in which you’re seeking employment. 

Here’s a breakdown of when language skills matter the most and when they are less crucial:

  1. Global and Multinational Companies: In today’s globalized world, many companies operate internationally. Proficiency in multiple languages can be a valuable asset, especially if the company has offices or clients in different parts of the world. Your language skills can set you apart from other candidates and demonstrate your ability to communicate effectively with a diverse clientele.
  2. Customer-Facing Roles: If the job you’re applying for involves interacting with customers or clients, having language skills relevant to those clients can be a major advantage. For example, if you’re applying for a position in a hotel in a tourist destination, fluency in languages spoken by tourists can be a significant selling point.
  3. Specific Job Requirements: Some positions specifically require proficiency in one or more languages. For example, roles in translation, interpretation, international sales, or diplomacy may necessitate a high level of language proficiency. In these cases, language skills are of paramount importance.
  4. International Experience: If you have worked or studied abroad, your language skills become more important. It not only demonstrates your ability to communicate in a different language but also showcases adaptability and cross-cultural competence.

On the other hand, language skills may be less critical in the following scenarios:

  1. Local and Non-Globalized Industries: If you’re applying for a job in an industry or role that operates primarily in a local or regional context and doesn’t require international communication, your language skills might be less of a priority.
  2. Entry-Level Positions: For entry-level positions, employers often prioritize other qualifications and experience over language skills. However, having even basic language skills can still be a valuable asset.
  3. Non-Customer-Facing Roles: In positions where you won’t interact directly with clients or customers, such as back-end IT support or warehouse management, language skills may take a back seat. These roles are often more focused on technical expertise and may not require extensive language proficiency.
  4. Niche or Specialized Fields: Some highly specialized fields, like nuclear engineering or aerospace research, may have limited international communication needs. In such cases, your technical knowledge and experience within that niche are of primary importance, with language skills being less crucial.

Where Should You Include Language Skills on Your Resume?

Now that we’ve established the importance of language skills on a resume let’s delve into where and how you should include them:

language proficiency levels resume

Resume Summary or Objective

Your resume summary or objective is the opening statement of your resume, offering a concise overview of your qualifications and goals.

It’s an ideal place to highlight your language skills, especially when they are directly relevant to the job you’re applying for. Here’s how to do it effectively:

  • Match Skills to the Job: Tailor your language skills to the specific job you’re seeking. If you’re applying for a customer service role in a Mandarin-speaking market, for instance, highlight your Mandarin fluency.
  • Highlight Your Strengths: Emphasize the value your language skills bring to the role. For instance, “Dedicated customer service professional with fluency in English and Tamil, enabling effective communication with a diverse clientele.”
  • Be Succinct: Keep your language skills concise and to the point. It’s a brief introduction, so focus on your most relevant language proficiency.
  • Use Action Words: Consider starting your summary or objective with strong action words to grab the reader’s attention. For example, “Fluent in English and Japanese, I excel in customer service.”

Skills Section

The skills section of your resume is the dedicated space to showcase your abilities, and language proficiency is an essential component. Here’s how to effectively list your language skills in this section:

  • Organize Clearly: Create a separate subsection within your skills section for languages. You can title it “Languages” or “Language Skills” to make it easily identifiable.
  • List Proficiency Levels: For each language you list, include your proficiency level, such as “Fluent,” “Intermediate,” or “Basic.” This provides recruiters with a clear understanding of your language abilities.
  • Prioritize by Proficiency: List your languages in descending order of proficiency, with your most proficient language at the top. This allows employers to quickly identify your most developed language skills.
  • Additional Skills: In addition to language skills, this section is also a suitable place to highlight other relevant skills that are valuable for the job, such as technical or software skills.
  • Quantify When Possible: If your language skills have resulted in quantifiable achievements or experiences, such as increasing international sales, consider including these details alongside the respective language.

Here are some other best skills you can put on your resume, along with your language skills.

Work Experience

Your work experience section is where you provide detailed accounts of your past roles and accomplishments.

Here’s how to integrate language skills into this section when they are pertinent to your job responsibilities:

  • Contextual Relevance: If your previous positions involved using your language skills, provide context by mentioning the languages you used and how they contributed to your achievements.
  • Highlight Achievements: Include specific accomplishments related to your language skills, such as expanding the client base in one particular region or successfully negotiating international contracts.
  • Showcasing Multilingual Competence: If you have managed or worked with a diverse range of international clients, employers will be interested in how you’ve effectively utilized your language skills to enhance business relationships and outcomes.
  • Include Keywords: To ensure your resume passes through applicant tracking systems (ATS), incorporate relevant keywords related to your language skills from the job description.

Education Section

If you acquired your language skills through formal education, such as a degree or certification, it’s important to highlight this in the education section:

  • Degree Title: Include the degree title that reflects your language education. For example, if you studied French, you can list it as “Bachelor of Arts in French Language and Literature.”
  • Institution: Mention the institution where you acquired your language education. This provides credibility and context for your language skills.
  • Graduation Date: Include the date of graduation or completion to demonstrate when you acquired your language proficiency.
  • Related Courses: If you took language-specific courses or received language certifications, consider listing them as well. For example, “Certified Japanese Language Proficiency.”

Examples of Where to Include Language Skills

  • Skills Section:
    • Languages: English (Fluent), Mandarin (Intermediate), Tamil (Basic)
    • You can add your technical skills here as well. 
    • E.g.: Programming languages: Python, Java, SQL, C++
  • Resume Summary:
    • Results-oriented marketing professional with fluency in English and advanced Mandarin skills.
  • Work Experience:
  • Sales Representative, XYZ Company
    • Managed international client accounts in Tamil, increasing revenue by 15%.
  • Education:
    • Bachelor of Arts in French Studies

Best Tips to Keep In Mind for Adding Language Proficiency Levels to Your Resume

When adding language proficiency levels to your resume, here are some essential tips to keep in mind:

Honesty is Key

Be honest about your language skills. Don’t exaggerate your proficiency, as you may be tested during the interview or on the job.

Use Standard Terminology

Use common terms to describe your language proficiency, such as “Fluent,” “Intermediate,” “Basic,” or “Conversational.” These terms provide a clear understanding of your abilities.

Provide Examples

Whenever possible, provide examples or context to support your proficiency level. Mention experiences where you used the language effectively.

Tailor to the Job

Customize your language skills section based on the job you’re applying for. Highlight the languages most relevant to the position.

Order Matters

Arrange your languages in descending order of proficiency, with the most proficient language at the top. This allows recruiters to identify your strongest language skills quickly.


Consistency in Format

Maintain a consistent format for listing your language proficiency levels throughout your resume.

Whether you use terms like “Fluent,” “Intermediate,” or “Basic,” keep the same format in the skills section, work experience, and education.

This consistency makes it easy for recruiters to understand your language proficiency at a glance.

Proof of Proficiency

If you have language certifications, include them. Certificates like the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR), the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), or the Diplôme d’études en langue française (DELF) can validate your language proficiency and provide added credibility.

Relevance to the Job

Tailor your language skills to the specific job you’re applying for. Highlight the languages that are most relevant to the role.

For example, if you’re applying for a marketing position targeting the Korean-speaking market, emphasize your Korean proficiency over other languages.

Language Skills in Action

Whenever possible, provide real-world examples of how you’ve used your language skills to achieve results.

For instance, “Negotiated a successful international deal with a German client, leveraging my intermediate German language skills.” This demonstrates practical application and impact.

Languages You’re Willing to Use

In some cases, you may have language skills that aren’t at the top of your proficiency list but are still valuable.

If you’re open to using these languages in the workplace, make that clear on your resume. You can include a statement such as, “Proficient in French (Fluent in Spanish), open to using both languages in a professional setting.”

Language Proficiency Levels and Their Meanings in a CV

To help you better understand the commonly used language proficiency levels in a CV, here’s an explanation of what each term typically implies:

Native Speaker: If you are a native speaker of a language, it means you grew up speaking the language and have complete fluency in both spoken and written forms.

Fluent: Being fluent in a language indicates that you can speak and write the language with ease, similar to a native speaker. You can handle complex conversations, work-related tasks, and professional correspondence without difficulty.

Advanced/Proficient: An advanced or proficient level suggests that you have a high degree of competence in the language. You can communicate effectively in a wide range of situations, including work-related tasks and complex discussions.

Intermediate: An intermediate level implies that you have a good understanding of the language and can hold basic conversations, but you may struggle with more complex or technical topics.

Basic/Conversational: Basic or conversational language skills mean you can handle everyday interactions and simple conversations but may need help with complex or technical language use.

Limited/Elementary: Limited or elementary proficiency suggests that you have a basic grasp of the language, sufficient for very simple interactions or travel but not for professional use.

No Proficiency: If you have no proficiency in a language, it means you have no practical knowledge of the language.


In Closing

Language skills can be a valuable addition to your resume, particularly in a globalized job market where communication across borders is essential. 

The importance of these skills varies based on the industry and job you’re applying for, so it’s crucial to assess their relevance in each case.

When adding language skills to your resume, be honest about your proficiency level and use standard terminology to convey your abilities. 

Tailor your language skills section to the specific job and order your languages by proficiency. 

By following these guidelines, you can effectively showcase your language skills and increase your chances of landing the job you desire. 

If you’re a fresh graduate or need extra help, here’s a sample resume for those with no experience.

Remember that in a competitive job market, every advantage counts, and your language skills might be the edge you need.

Diane Wong