Language Proficiency Levels and Including it on a Resume

What are language proficiency levels? Thousands of languages are spoken by individuals from all walks of life across the world. You might be wondering how to measure your language abilities and correctly mention them on a resume if you've acquired another language or many languages during your life.

language proficiency levels on a resume

What are levels of fluency?

The phrase "fluency levels" refers to preset degrees of language abilities that are related to a person's ability to speak, write, and read a foreign language. On a résumé, your degree of fluency aids potential employers in determining whether or not you're qualified for a given job. Online tests and guides that help you understand your degree of fluency in a foreign language can be used to measure your level of fluency.

There are two frequently utilized proficiency frameworks in the United States. The Interagency Language Roundtable (ILR) scale and the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) scale are two examples (ACTFL).

There are six levels of language proficiency on the ILR scale:

  • 0 - No proficiency. This implies that you don't know much about the language or only know a few words.
  • 1 - Basic understanding. Can read/write basic sentences. Not a proficient language. Or elementary proficiency. Knowing how to compose simple phrases, which can contain frequent inquiries and responses commonly used by visitors, is required to demonstrate this level of fluency.
  • 2 - Limited proficiency/limited working proficiency. You can conduct limited social discussions and comprehend basic orders at level two. Can form basic sentences.
  • 3 - Professional proficiency. Level three indicates that you have a good understanding of the language and can contribute significantly to the job, however, you can have a noticeable accent and require assistance with complex vocabulary. Fairly extensive vocabulary.
  • 4 - Full professional proficiency. Professional working proficiency in this language. On the ILR scale, level four abilities are what most companies want to see on a resume. It implies you can hold sophisticated discussions and have a solid grasp of the language, albeit there can be some misconceptions or occasional errors.
  • 5 - Ability to communicate in a native or bilingual manner. Level five denotes complete fluency in a language. You were either raised speaking the language or have practiced it for a long time. Your accent is either completely absent or hardly discernible.

Novice, Intermediate, Advanced, Superior, and Distinguished are the five primary fluency levels on the ACTFL scale. Low, medium and high proficiency levels are among these levels.

Take language tests to determine which foreign languages are your most proficient language.

Here's a graphic representation of how these two scales' levels compare:

  • Novice (Low/Mid/High) — 0/0+/1
  • Intermediate (Low/Mid/High) — 1+
  • Advanced Low — 2
  • Advanced Mid — 2+
  • Advanced High — 3/3+
  • Superior — 4+

CEFR refers to the European format for language proficiencies. This includes A1, A2, B2, C1, and C2. Only use these levels when applying to positions in another country.

language proficiency levels on a resume

Why is listing proficiency important on a resume?

You should notify potential employers about your level of language competence as a job seeker for numerous reasons:

  • The work requires your linguistic abilities.
  • You want to stand out as a more appealing prospect.
  • You want to demonstrate that you're a quick study.
  • Your expertise might be beneficial to the company's future expansion.

The relevance of language skill levels on a resume/CV must be obvious to the recruiter. Your aim is to demonstrate that as a potential bilingual or multilingual employee, you can offer value to the organization.

These are valuable talents to include on a resume since they demonstrate your capacity to speak more effectively in situations where others would have difficulties.

How to include language fluency on a resume

When determining how to incorporate your multilingual abilities on a resume, follow these steps:

Highlight your skills in a new section

When applying for a job that demands knowledge of a foreign language, you'll want to make sure that your multilingual abilities are prominently shown. Rather than including it in your abilities area, where it can be ignored, make a separate part that defines your degree of fluency. If you just know one foreign language, it's preferable to put it in the skills area. However, for many people who wish to highlight their abilities, a separate section is the ideal option.

language proficiency levels on a resume

Display the language skills after education

The heading, professional skills, job experience, and education are the major components of a resume. If you don't have another core component at the conclusion, put your language section after the education portion. Because it follows the natural flow of the resume, the part is considerably more apparent to the hiring manager.

List languages showing your proficiency

You've found the ideal location to incorporate your language skills, and you're ready to list them utilizing a single language framework. Many language frameworks or guidelines exist that can help you determine your degree of skill in a foreign language. When announcing your skills, though, you should only utilize one of those scales for consistency.

Begin with the most proficient languages

You could be able to communicate in a variety of languages. You most likely have a skill level that varies from language to language. It is recommended to include your most fluent language first on your resume, then the remainder in descending order.

Tips for listing languages on a resume

Now that you know how to mention your degrees of language proficiency on a resume, let's go over some pointers to be sure you've correctly reflected your abilities.

Keep in mind the significance of being truthful about your talents. It's generally better to leave off any items you're about to write or add if you have any doubts regarding them. The following are the most crucial guidelines for mentioning languages on a resume:

Don't overstate skills

For a variety of reasons, this is a poor idea. When you tell your employer that you have talents that are greater than your real abilities, you are lying about your abilities. You'll have to show how well you know the language at some time, which can be humiliating if you're not as proficient as you once claimed. You also don't want to come across as if you've been lying. When in doubt, it's better to underestimate rather than exaggerate your language abilities.

Include your native or first language

When adding several languages on a resume, it's best to list English as your native language if you were born and raised in an English-speaking family. If you leave this information off your resume, you risk causing misunderstanding. Employers can think you speak English based on the fact that you submitted your resume in that language.

Leave extinct languages off

Though it can be tempting to include Latin on your resume since you use it frequently in your field of work, you should avoid it. If you're applying for a Latin-based employment, you can wish to add it under specific situations, but it's not required otherwise.

Avoid using years when referencing fluency

When describing your linguistic abilities, it's preferable to avoid using the phrase 'years.' This is because your degree of skill in a language is not determined by your age. Even if you took French for four years in high school, you don't have the same abilities as someone who has earned the Level 4 (IRL) designation.

Mention you're bilingual

In addition to including a specific language section on your resume, you should emphasize your bilingualism in your summary. Knowing this phrase right away helps the hiring manager prepare for future information regarding your language skills, which can be located lower down the resume/CV.

Remove languages

One-page resumes are the most frequent. If you're running out of room and being multilingual isn't a must-have skill for the job, consider eliminating the language part entirely. If required, you can always bring it up again in the cover letter or during the interview.

Examples of listing languages on a resume

Under "additional skills," mention:

One language

Level 3 (IRL) Spanish

Multiple languages

English - Level 5 (ILR)

German - Level 3+ (ILR)

Have a language skills section

You can list a "language skills" on the resume if language is a key part of the job description. Example:

Language Skills

Professional working Spanish - 4

The language proficiency level is included as a "4."

language proficiency levels on a resume

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author: patrick algrim
About the author

Patrick Algrim is a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW), NCDA Certified Career Counselor (CCC), and general career expert. Patrick has completed the NACE Coaching Certification Program (CCP). And has been published as a career expert on Forbes, Glassdoor, American Express, Reader's Digest, LiveCareer, Zety, Yahoo, Recruiter.com, SparkHire, SHRM.org, Process.st, FairyGodBoss, HRCI.org, St. Edwards University, NC State University, IBTimes.com, Thrive Global, TMCnet.com, Work It Daily, Workology, Career Guide, MyPerfectResume, College Career Life, The HR Digest, WorkWise, Career Cast, Elite Staffing, Women in HR, All About Careers, Upstart HR, The Street, Monster, The Ladders, Introvert Whisperer, and many more. Find him on LinkedIn.

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