How to Add Language Skills to Your Resume

Adding language skills to your resume is a surefire way to impress recruiters — here’s how to do it.

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By Barney Meekin · June 6, 2024 · 8 minute read

You can boost your career choices and earning potential by learning another language. Languages other than English are desirable for many businesses. And when you master one of them, you become more valuable to potential employers. You give yourself the best chance of landing a dream job by putting your language skills front and center on your resume.

In this article, you will learn the best ways to prove your language ability and how to list them on your resume.

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Why are language skills essential for your career?

Language skills boost employability and working conditions so dust off that dictionary and get studying. People with language skills other than English are in demand in the USA. A survey of 1,200 employers in the USA found that 9 out of 10 businesses need staff who speak languages other than English. And that demand for foreign language speakers will increase in the future. The same survey found that a quarter of US businesses lose business because they have a foreign-language skills gap.

The story’s the same over the pond. In the UK, the British Chambers of Commerce says foreign language skills are important for the future of 23% of UK businesses. And in Europe, research has found that 25% of jobs require advanced language skills.

Employers need people who can speak other languages. And they’re willing to pay more for them. Research from Europe shows that employees with foreign language skills get paid more than those without. Depending on the language you speak, you could earn between 11% and 32% more money.

There you have it. By learning a foreign language, you become in demand. You have more opportunities. And you increase your pay ceiling.

How to list language skills on your resume

Let’s say you’ve mastered a foreign language and you’re ready to start wowing recruiters with your skills. In this section, you'll find out the best way to list your language skills to maximize their impact on hiring managers.

1. Decide your language level

Here it is, the most important thing you need to do. You need to know how good you are. The more specific you are, the more believable your claims are. Instead of guessing, use a standardized framework.

The first thing you can do is self-assess. If you decide to do this, there are a few level systems you can use. Let’s take a look.

  • The Common European Framework of References CEFR

    The Common European Framework of References for language is a well-known proficiency scale. Its lowest level is A2 and its highest is C2. You can use the CEFR self-assessment grid to figure out how you stack up in 5 language skills: Reading, listening, speaking interaction, speaking production, and writing. It’s super easy to use the scale. And even though it comes from Europe, you can use it for languages around the world.

  • Interagency language roundtable (ILR)

    If you’re in the USA, this might be a better one for you to use. The ILR scale has levels from 0 to 5, with 0 being no proficiency and 5 being native or bilingual proficiency. You can use this to give recruiters in the USA an idea about your level.

  • LinkedIn’s language proficiency

    If you job hunt through LinkedIn, use this handy language skills feature. It has 5 different levels from elementary proficiency to native or bilingual proficiency. All you need to do is add language skills to your profile and select your level.

Self-assessment is fine but if you really want to make an impression, backing up your claims with a certificate is the way to go. Luckily, there are proficiency tests for all the most useful languages in the world:

  • The Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT)

    There are five levels with the lowest being N5 and the highest being N1. If you want to show off your Japanese skills, aim for N2 — business level. It’s worth noting that there is no speaking part to this test so it’s not the best way to show communicative ability.

  • Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi (HSK) for Mandarin Chinese

    There are six levels with 1 being the lowest and 6 being the highest. Passing the HSK is the best way to prove your Mandarin Chinese skills.

  • The Diplomas de Español como Lengua Extranjera (DELE) for Spanish

    The six levels of the DELE are the same as the CEFR. Anything at B2 and above shows you’re a proficient user of Spanish.

  • Diplôme d’Etudes en Langue Française (DELF) and Diplôme Approfondi de Langue Française (DALF) for French

    DELF assesses French ability from A1 to B2 on the CEFR and DALF deals with advanced users at C1 and C2.

  • The Goethe-Zertifikat for German

    This test conforms to the CEFR levels. German is one of the most useful languages in the world so any hiring manager will be impressed when they see you pass the higher-level Goethe-Zertifikat tests.

If you go the test route, it’s going to be much harder than self-assessment. But you end up with cold, hard proof that you have mastered another language.

Speaking another language at work can be stimulatiing

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Now that you know how to add language skills on your resume, you can be confident to speak the second language that you can learn with Busuu, at your workplace and get stimulated and motivated to work with your fellow colleagues!

2. List language skills on your resume

You’ve figured out your level or passed your test. Now it’s time to add that to your resume. The tips here are just guidelines. Depending on the job you’re applying for they may not be appropriate (more on that later). You need to decide where the best place on your resume is to list your language skills.

  • Dedicated language skills section

    If you’re a polyglot, you’re going to want a dedicated space on your resume that lists all your language skills. List all the languages you speak, the level, and any relevant certifications. If language skills aren’t essential to the job, this section can go after your skills, work history, and education sections.

  • Languages in the skills section

    If you only speak one extra language (or if languages aren’t important for the job) it might be better to add language skills to your other skills. Just mix them right up with all the other skills you’re proud of.

  • Exceptions

    As I said, these are just guidelines. If language skills are essential for the job, don’t hide them. Put them front and center. If only one language is relevant for the job, include that one and don’t worry about any others. Try and imagine what the hiring manager wants to see (and how important language skills are for them).

3. Format your language skills

Be consistent in how you display your language skills. If you’re self-assessing your ability, choose one framework and stick to it. For example, if you speak four languages, use CEFR for each. Don’t mix it up with ILR levels.

Another good idea is to start with your strongest language. If you’re listing more than one language, do it in a logical order: Strongest to weakest.

Boost your employability with Busuu

Get closer to the job of your dreams by learning a new language with Busuu. With feedback from native speakers and courses made by language-learning experts, Busuu has everything you need to take your career to the next level.