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How to Show Language Levels on a Resume (2024 Guide)

Even though your mother tongue could be enough, knowing foreign languages is a giant advantage. Learn how to display your language levels on a resume to land a job.

Mariusz Wawrzyniak
Mariusz Wawrzyniak
Career Expert
How to Show Language Levels on a Resume (2024 Guide)

Gandalf wouldn’t have been able to open the gates of Moria if he didn’t know the Elvish language. And you, too, risk not being able to open the doors to a great job.

But if you can show your high language levels on a resume, many opportunities will open right before you. All you need to do is learn how to list languages on your resume the right way.

This guide will show you:

  • Why you should include your language skills on a resume.
  • Different resume language level scales and how to use them.
  • Examples of how to show language levels on a resume.
  • How to determine your language proficiency level for your resume.

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Why You Should Show Language Levels on Resume

A study conducted by the European Commission proved that knowledge of foreign languages greatly benefits hiring chances, especially in specific industries. For example, because of Germany's highly advanced manufacturing and automotive industries, the German language is highly sought after in these fields.

So, what does it mean for your resume? Why is showing language proficiency on your resume so beneficial?

  • The global economy often means contact with international companies and clients, which explains the high demand for language skills.
  • You show the company that you’re a great learner. After all, learning a new language is a difficult task. And it makes you a valuable asset for the company’s growth in the future.

Before you start listing every language, count to ten, knowing there are rules and best practices to present your language levels on a resume.

Expert Hint: Levels of language proficiency are just a small part of your entire application. You should also learn how to write a resume in full, including how to showcase your work history and present relevant experience.

Scales for Showing Levels of Language Proficiency on a Resume

You might’ve already seen various terminologies when it comes to showing language levels for a resume: numerical scores (5+), letter-number combination (A1 or B2), or even just a full description (fluent or advanced). Let’s look at them in a bit more detail:

List of Language Proficiency Frameworks

Language Proficiency Levels for Resume—Proficiency Scales

Language Proficiency Levels for Resume—Proficiency Scales

Common Terminology

CEFR

ILR

ACTFL

LinkedIn

Fluent

5

Distinguished

Native/Bilingual Proficiency

C2

4, 4+

Superior

Proficient

C1

3, 3+

Advanced High

Full Professional Proficiency

Conversational

B2

2+

Advanced Low - Advanced Mid

Minimum Professional Proficiency

B1

2

Intermediate Mid - Intermediate High

Limited Working Proficiency

Basic

A2

1+

Novice High

Elementary Proficiency

A1

0+, 1

Novice Mid

0

Novice Low

No Proficiency

Here are a few things to remember and note:

  • Stick with one chosen framework when listing out your languages.
  • Avoid the common terminology, as it’s not a regulated scoring method.

Expert Hint: If you are proficient in a language that uses a different scoring scale, such as HSK for Mandarin Chinese, include your score after the language proficiency scale score.

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How to Find Your Language Fluency Level for a Resume

The recruiter has every right to believe you’ve been lying on your resume if you’ve eyeballed your language skills. And if that happens, your application will get instantly rejected. So, to correctly assess your language proficiency, use one of these two options:

  • Prove your language skill level through an official certification. You can get many certificates both online and through language schools.
  • Self-assess yourself by following the official guidelines. You’ll find them on the websites of each of the mentioned frameworks.

How to Properly Show Language Levels in Resume

Many people showcase their resume language levels under the skills section, but there is a much better way to do so. Make a dedicated language section on your resume. It provides clarity and highlights linguistic proficiency more effectively.

Just like listing certificates on a resume in a separate section, a language section gives prominence to your levels of language proficiency. It allows the recruiter to quickly and easily assess your proficiency levels without scanning your entire resume. And it’ll let you add more valuable resume skills to the skills section. This is beneficial for both entry-level resumes, and experienced ones.

Now, this is how to list languages on your resume:

  • Create a separate language resume section.
  • Put it after the mandatory sections of your resume (behind your work experience, education, and skills).
  • Or add your language skills on a sidebar if you’ve chosen a resume template with one. They’ll be easily visible and won’t increase your resume’s length.
  • Start with the language you know best.
  • Omit languages you’re not proficient with. Beginner knowledge of a language won’t benefit your resume.
  • Stay consistent and use just one language proficiency scale throughout the entire section unless you specify which language is your native or if you’re bilingual.

If you specialize in a particular regional dialect (French Canadian, Brazilian Portuguese), you can specify that in your list (but you don’t have to). 

With all that in mind, let’s see what your resume language skill list should look like in different styles:

Resume Language Levels—CEFR Style

  • British English—Native
  • Spanish—C1 Certified
  • Italian—B2 Level
  • French—B1 Level

Resume Language Levels—ILR Style

  • American English—ILR 5 (Native/Bilingual)
  • Spanish—ILR 5 (Native/Bilingual)
  • French Canadian—ILR 3 Certified

Resume Language Levels—ACTFL Style

  • American English—Distinguished (Native)
  • Arabic—Advanced High
  • Brazilian Portuguese—Intermediate High

Resume Language Levels—LinkedIn Style

  • American English—Native/Bilingual Proficiency
  • Mandarin Chinese—Native/Bilingual Proficiency
  • Japanese—Full Professional Proficiency
  • Thai—Minimum Professional Proficiency

Resume Language Levels—Common Terminology

  • Australian English—Native
  • Polish—Fluent
  • Czech—Proficient
  • Latvian—Conversational

Should you differentiate between written and spoken language proficiency on a resume? As a general rule of thumb, no. But there are exceptions. Usually, you’ll find these exceptions in the job description on the job ad. If so, you should tailor your resume, including all the relevant resume keywords. This way, you show the company you’re the perfect fit.

You can divide language proficiency into these four categories:

  • Writing
  • Speaking
  • Reading
  • Listening

If your job application demands you differentiate between your written and spoken language levels on your resume, list it in the following way:

Resume Language Levels—Written and Spoken Language

  • American English—Native
  • Chinese—Writing C2, Speaking C2 (TECH Certified 92%)
  • Spanish—Writing B1, Speaking C1

This is a rare occurrence, but if it happens to you, now you know how to show your written and spoken language proficiency on a resume. Also, click here if you’re looking for more great resume tips.

And what if you’re multilingual? How should you show multiple language proficiencies on your resume?

Having two native languages is an asset for your resume. But what’s better than knowing two languages on a native level? Knowing three, or four, or more of them!

Since multilingualism is rare, it creates a massive advantage for you in the job market. When showcasing bilingualism, trilingualism, or multilingualism, just note which languages are native to you.

Expert Hint: Don’t mention how many years you’ve studied a specific language. It’s obsolete.

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Key Points

To show your resume language levels correctly, remember to

  • Assess your language proficiency. Refrain from guessing your language level.
  • Select the most appropriate language level scale. Use it consistently throughout your resume.
  • Create a separate section to display your language skills on a resume.

Do you have any questions about presenting language levels on a resume? Ask your questions in the comments section below. We’ll be happy to answer!

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Mariusz Wawrzyniak
Mariusz Wawrzyniak
Mariusz is a career expert with a background in quality control & economics. With work experience in FinTech and a passion for self-development, Mariusz brings a unique perspective to his role. He’s dedicated to providing the most effective advice on resume and cover letter writing techniques to help his readers secure the jobs of their dreams.

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