How to Include Language Skills on Your Resume in 8 Steps

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 15 September 2022

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.

Language skills are essential for various people, such as interpreters, translators, journalists and educators. Skill levels range from beginner to native language speaker. Knowing how to outline these skills on your resume and customise them to the role you're applying for can help you show recruiters that you're a suitable candidate. In this article, we list steps on how to include language skills on your resume and provide a few examples to show you how to highlight them.

How to include language skills on your resume

Review the following steps to learn how to include language skills on your resume:

1. Understand the types of language skills

When writing your language skills on your resume, it's important to describe your skills based on the job. For example, a content writer would describe language skills differently from a foreign language teacher. Explore the following types of language skills:

  • Writing: This involves using your language proficiency to write content for various purposes, such as writing and translating articles and blogs. Such positions require you to be well-versed with punctuation and spelling in the languages you speak and have expertise in writing descriptive, narrative or argumentative pieces.

  • Listening: This involves being able to listen to and understand other languages. It's useful for interpreters who hear and translate one spoken language to another.

  • Speaking: This involves being able to speak languages fluently using the correct dialect and intonation. Broadcast journalists, interpreters and educators who speak multiple languages can include speaking skills on their resumes.

  • Reading: This is an applicable skill for translators and content writers who work with written content in several languages.

Related: 6 Universal Rules for Writing Your Resume

2. Know when to include them

There are several instances whereby it's key to include language skills on your resume, such as if they appear in the job description. Analyse the job description and note the language skill level recruiters want in a candidate to ensure you include the relevant skills on your resume. Other situations whereby it's important to have language skills include:

  • Applying for a job abroad: If you're applying for a job in another country, including proficiency in the native language on your resume shows that you can adapt to the work environment and converse with others easily.

  • Pursuing an interactive role: If you're applying for a position that requires customer interaction, such as sales or customer service, mentioning your fluency in another language shows recruiters that you can speak to customers from different backgrounds, which is an added advantage.

  • Looking for your first job: If you're searching for your first job opportunity and have few skills, adding language skills to your resume can demonstrate your ability to learn quickly and makes your resume looks more comprehensive.

  • Seeking a competitive position: If you're applying for a competitive role, adding language skills to your resume shows that you can add value to the new job, which may be useful if the company has international relationships.

Related: What Can I Do with a Modern Languages Degree? (With Benefits)

3. Describe your language skill level

Hiring managers want to ascertain your skill level to decide if you're a suitable candidate. It's important to describe your language abilities on your resume to demonstrate your expertise level. Consider expressing your skill level in the following way:

  • Beginner: Mention that you're a beginner in a particular language if you've just begun learning and can speak a few words but haven't achieved proficiency yet.

  • Intermediate: Use this term to describe your skill level if you can hold simple conversations with native speakers and have some reading proficiency in the language.

  • Proficient: This term applies if you can speak, read and write the language with little difficulty but may require speakers to repeat themselves occasionally.

  • Fluent: Use this term if you can speak, read and write the language without difficulty.

  • Native: This term applies if you grew up speaking the language and underwent formal training using this language.

Related: What Is Language Proficiency? Definition and Levels

4. Select a resume format

There are three resume formats to consider when deciding how to highlight your language skills. They depend on your general skill and experience level. Review the following examples:

  • Chronological format: This format involves placing your skills section last. You can include language skills in this arrangement if they're not necessary for the position but show that you can add value to the role.

  • Functional format: This format involves placing your skills section underneath your professional summary. Consider this configuration if you want to emphasise your language proficiency and have gaps in your work history.

  • Combination format: This format involves putting your skills and work experience sections after your professional summary. Use this layout to demonstrate your language proficiency in both these sections.

Related: How to Format Your Resume (With Examples)

5. Include them in your professional summary

If the job description mentions language skills as necessary for the position, ensure to include your language skills here. Try to match the qualifications as closely as possible. Include your skill level and any significant language-related accomplishments in this section. Consider using figures to emphasise these accomplishments. For example, mentioning that you successfully translated over 100 articles into another language is more effective than saying you can translate articles.

6. Mention them in your work experience section

In your work experience section, highlight your language skills by describing how you used them in previous roles. This shows that you can apply these skills. Use bullet points to describe each job duty you had that used these skills.

7. List them in your skills section

This is the most important section in which to highlight your language skills. If the role requires these skills, consider describing them comprehensively. Create a header for language skills, and list each language you can speak. Underneath each language, describe your language skills in speaking, reading and writing. Ensure to emphasise each skill depending on the job. For example, if you're applying for a translator role, mention your proficiency or fluency in the languages you can read and write.

Related: What Are Skills? (With Definition and How to Improve Them)

8. Highlight them in your education section

Include any degrees or certifications relevant to your language skills. Document the names of the certifying bodies alongside the certification names. If you want to broaden this section, consider taking tests that award certifications proving your proficiency. Examples of tests include:

  • International English Language Testing System (IELTS): The IELTS is a test you can take to demonstrate your English language fluency. Consider adding this certificate if you're applying for a role that requires this skill.

  • The Japanese-Language Proficiency Test (JLPT): This is an internationally recognised Japanese language test with levels ranging from N1 to N5. N1 is the most advanced level, while N5 is the most basic level.

  • The Chinese Proficiency Test (HSK): This international standardised test assesses non-native Chinese speakers' reading, writing and speaking skills. The test levels range from level one to six, with level five being the most advanced.

  • The Spanish as a Foreign Language Diploma (DELE): This is a diploma you earn after demonstrating proficiency in Spanish. It has levels ranging from A1 to C2, whereby A1 is the basic level and C2 is the advanced level.

  • Goethe-Institut: Goethe certificates demonstrate proficiency in the German language. The certifications range from A1 to C2, with C2 being the highest level.

Related: How to Include a Language on a Resume (With 5 Examples)

Professional summary example

Review the following professional summary to understand how to include language skills on yours:

A highly-motivated multilingual translator with five years of experience translating 100+ projects, such as novels and articles, from English to Japanese. I'm fluent in reading, writing and speaking Japanese and am an intermediate-level French speaker.

Work experience example

Review the following example to learn how to highlight your language skills in your work experience section:

Translator | June 2017–Current WordTranslate Ltd. | Singapore

  • perform various interpretations and translations from English to Japanese, including novels, articles and audio files

  • attend corporate meetings to facilitate the interaction between English and Japanese speakers

  • translate website content, legal documents and workplace policies

  • maintain strict confidentiality when translating legal documents

  • provide copies of transcripts to executives when requested

  • read content in the Japanese language to keep up to date with idioms and colloquialisms to provide realistic translations for modern content

Skills example

Examine the following example to gauge how to outline your language skills in this section:

Language skills

English language

  • Reading: fluent

  • Writing: fluent

  • Speaking: native

Japanese

  • Reading: fluent

  • Writing: fluent

  • Speaking: fluent

French

  • Reading: beginner

  • Writing: beginner

  • Speaking: intermediate

Education example

Review the following example to understand how to highlight language skills in your education background:

Education

Bachelor of Arts in English Literature (Honours), North Shangi University

Certifications
Japanese-Language Proficiency Test Certificate Level N1, May 2018

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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