How to Include Language Skills on Your Resume (With Examples)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 26 June 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

With the onset of globalisation, language skills are a necessary professional ability. They allow you to converse with people from different countries and understand the cultural context of a person's actions and behaviours. Thus, language skills are crucial for companies looking to expand their operations and appear more diverse. Stating them on your resume can help you stand out from other job candidates, too.

In this article, we discuss when to include language skills on your resume, the different levels of proficiency and how to present your language skills on a resume with examples.

Related: 10 Best Skills to Include on a CV

Can you include language skills on a resume?

Language skills are an excellent personal characteristic to include in your resume's skills section. It highlights your global mindset and consideration for diversity in the workplace. Demonstrating your language skills can give you an edge over other candidates because businesses are always looking to expand their operations into new markets. It's also a skill that can take years to build confidence in, therefore, recruiters appreciate this form of personal development.

Language skills can be especially important in Asia, where clients and customers speak multiple dialects. Proficiency in more than one language goes a long way in connecting with people from different cultures. It allows you to express yourself in a more culturally relevant way. It also gives you the added benefit of establishing an instant bond with a stranger based on shared traditions and language.

When to include language skills on a resume?

For language skills to be effective in your resume, you need to consider when to use them. First, compile a list of any language skills that you can comfortably apply in a professional setting. Next, consider the following factors before you state them on your resume:

  • Examine your level of language proficiency. Consider whether you can speak, read and write the languages on your list. Be honest about how comfortable you are with them. Doing so helps you cut down your list. Refrain from exaggerating your skills on your resume as it can be misleading.

  • Highlight the job description's key terms. Towards the bottom of the job description, most recruiters list out their language requirements. If you possess any of the ones mentioned, highlight them on your resume.

  • Gather information on the company's operations. Browse the company website, social media pages and news articles to determine their goals and future moves. For example, if you find news about a takeover in a new market, you can explain how your language skills can be useful to them.

  • Understand your potential employer's values. Corporate websites often have a page dedicated to their philosophy. If you see any mentions of keywords, such as diversity, inclusion or globalisation, stating your bilingual characteristics may be highly attractive to them.

  • Examine their corporate culture. Look at pictures on their social media pages to determine whether the organisation is ethnically diverse. In this situation, discussing your language skills shows recruiters you can seamlessly integrate with their co-workers, too.

Once you have thoroughly thought about the factors listed above, select the most relevant language skills to include in your resume.

Related: Selecting the Right CV Skills in 5 Simple Steps

What are the different levels of language proficiency?

It's important to review your language proficiency before mentioning them on your resume. This way, you create a more accurate picture of your skills. It not only helps the recruiter hire the most relevant candidate for a vacancy but also ensures you can perform adequately in the role. Being as honest as possible makes it easier for employers to trust you. It makes a positive first impression. Here are some different levels of language proficiency for your consideration:

Beginner

A beginner level refers to someone who has just started studying a new language. They know some basic words and phrases, but can't communicate in grammatically correct sentences. In general, they lack a confident grasp of the language. Usually, most professionals don't include beginner language skills on their resume to save precious space. However, it's a good way to show your commitment to personal development, especially if you are learning a language that's highly relevant to the job you are applying for.

Intermediate

An intermediate level speaker can use basic vocabulary to hold a brief conversation. They speak at a slower pace than a native level speaker and may need time to understand and respond to questions. The reading and writing skills in the language are usually quite basic, too. Like beginner level speakers, professionals often refrain from including intermediate language skills in a resume, unless they can be of value.

Proficient

When you're proficient in a language, you can converse with people with minimal difficulty. While your speaking skills are suitable for professional settings, you might still lack confidence in your reading and writing skills. Proficient language skills look impressive on a resume because they are an asset that employers can benefit from.

Fluent

Fluent language skills convey your ability to speak, read and write a language comfortably. It implies that you are just as proficient in your second language as a native speaker. At this level, many employers may offer you more competitive salary packages, especially if bilingualism is crucial to their advertised job opening, such as a customer-facing role. Thus, it's an extremely impressive skill to highlight on your resume.

Native

A native language skill refers to the language you grew up speaking. This is the first language you mastered, along with its grammatical rules and complex set of vocabulary. For example, in Hong Kong, most professionals' native language is Cantonese or English.

What languages look good on a resume?

The most employable language skills depend on your work location and your company background. In Hong Kong, here's a list of the most employable languages:

  • Cantonese is the local dialect in the city. This is the language that most residents speak, read and write in their daily communications.

  • English is a language most Hong Kong residents have adopted as the city is a former British colony. It's also a crucial language skill that allows you to communicate with clients in different countries and collaborate with people from different cultures in the workplace.

  • Mandarin is becoming more of a common language requirement for working in Hong Kong as many companies in the city do business across the border with China.

Aside from your work location, you need to consider the organisation's objectives, too. For example, if you are working for a multinational company with head offices in Europe, any knowledge of European languages may help you appear more qualified for the role. If you are considering moving away from Hong Kong for a job, research local language requirements to check if you have any skills that could be an asset to employers in that country.

How to format language skills on a resume?

Review the following guide on how to format language skills on your resume:

1. Determine the language rating system you will use

When you list your language skills on a resume, you need to state your level of proficiency in them. You can either attach a keyword, such as native, fluent, proficient, intermediate or beginner, or use a scale to describe your expertise. A scale is a good option because it allows recruiters to quantify your level of mastery. This way, they can compare your proficiency between languages and to other job candidates. If you opt for a scale, remember to explain what the numbers represent.

2. Select a suitable section on your resume

Most professionals include a list of their language skills in either the academic background section of their resume or the skills section. Typically, you will only discuss them in your education section, if you have a credential to prove your proficiency. If not, place your language skills in your skills section under a sub-heading.

3. Format your language skills section

The key to a good resume is keeping it as concise as possible. This rule also applies to your language skills section. Most resume writers follow a simple format. List out your language skills in bullet points with your native language at the top and for each entry, briefly describe your level of proficiency. Remember to keep your resume format consistent, therefore, apply the same text font and style throughout.

Related: Why Creating Multiple Versions of Your CV Works

Language skills section examples

Here are a few examples of language skills on a resume that you can use as a reference for your own:

Language keywords for a resume

Here's an example resume skills section with keywords to describe your proficiency in a certain language:

Language skills

  • Cantonese - Native

  • British English - Fluent

  • Mandarin - Fluent

  • Spanish - Intermediate

Language scales for a resume

The following is an example resume skills section that rates your language proficiency on a scale between one to five, with five representing native level proficiency:

Language skills

  • Cantonese - 5

  • British English - 4

  • Mandarin - 3

  • French - 2

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