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If you’re bilingual or a polylinguist and you’re putting together a CV, the languages you speak should feature somewhere.
Even if you have a high level of proficiency in another language but aren’t fully fluent, it’s usually still a smart move to include it.
But where exactly – and what terminology should you use to describe your proficiency? In this article we’ll cover all you need to know about CV languages.
This applies to many people in the UK. According to Preply, 36% of UK adults are bilingual – that’s more than 24 million people.
As mentioned, you don’t need to be fluent to justify including a language on your CV. If you think it’s something that could help you get a job, put it on there!
If you haven’t already, we recommend first focusing most of your time, energy and creativity on the rest of your CV. This is how to write a CV – our comprehensive guide.
Now on y va, vamos, let’s go!
Many businesses have an international customer base. As technology continues to become more accessible and sophisticated, more companies are improving their digital presence too.
That means they’re selling online and using social media to connect with customers instantly around the world. Even if they don’t have a physical presence outside the UK, they might have country-specific social media accounts that post in other languages.
It’s not all about online though. Whether you’re travelling abroad for a business development meeting, or talking to a customer in-store, or on the phone with prospective clients, language skills are often useful.
For some roles, they’re even essential. For example, you might see a job advert looking for a fluent French salesperson to work in the UK, but with regular trips to France.
If you’re looking for a job outside the UK, it’s more likely that employers will be looking for someone fluent in the native language, as well as English. Take note that you may also need to put a photo on your CV when applying for a role in a different country.
The common place to put languages on CV documents is towards the end – after the personal statement, skills, career history and education sections.
If you think about it, that makes sense because learning a language is a form of education, whether studied at school, in spare time or as a young child.
If you have any language certifications, you may also want to include those in an education, achievements or qualifications section too.
Of course, not every CV follows the typical format. See our recent blog on how to write an academic CV for an example of a different layout.
There are also times when you’ll want to feature your language skills much more prominently on your CV.
You could mention your languages in a skills section on the first page, or even in your personal statement section.
You should definitely do this if the job advert says that a specific language you have is essential or desirable.
In general, if your language skills are useful in the role you’re applying for and a way to differentiate yourself from other applicants, ensure the hiring manager sees them early on.
The earliest possible place you could mention your languages is in a CV headline, which is another great way to stand out from other candidates.
There are several scales that employers will be familiar with – you can use one of these to indicate your degree of fluency in a language.
In Europe, there’s the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). It has six reference levels:
Not sure which letter and number combination best describes your language level? There are plenty of online checks you can use to work it out, such as this one.
If you’re applying for a job outside Europe, it’s worth checking which scale is the most widely used in that country.
In the US, common scales include the Interagency Language Roundtable scale (ILR) or one provided by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages scale (ACTFL).
You don’t have to use a scale for your CV languages though. If you prefer, you can describe your level of proficiency in your own words – for example: fluent, native, mother tongue, advanced, intermediate, basic and so on.
Online applications may also use their own terminology. They may ask you to specify which languages you speak, then give you drop-down boxes to select your level.
Staying with employers’ online platforms, sometimes they’ll ask you to give different levels for different aspects of language proficiency:
This is because you might have independent levels of reading and writing, but basic levels of speaking and listening, for example.
If you are more confident or less confident in certain aspects, consider splitting out languages on your CV this way too.
Remember, it’s never a good idea to lie on a CV – there’s no point in saying you’re fluent in a language that you’re out of practice using.
Even if the interviewer doesn’t put your language skills to the test, you could quickly find yourself stuck in the job itself. It would be pretty embarrassing if you’re asked to lead a call in German with a client and you haven’t used any vocab since your GCSEs!
Remember, if you speak more than one language, you could add them after the education section of your CV, then describe your level of proficiency.
If your languages are clearly relevant to the job you’re applying for, it’s probably worth having them higher up on the CV – in a skills section or perhaps in your personal statement.
We hope you found this guide useful! Don’t forget to also add certifications to your LinkedIn profile.