How To Feature Language Proficiency Levels on Your Resume

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 30 August 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.

The rise of conducting international business results in a different client base, work partners and employees for companies, so language proficiency is becoming a skill that employers value. Therefore, if you are proficient in multiple languages, it is a valuable skill to have in a multi-cultural business environment because you have a higher likelihood to form relationships with clients or coworkers. Additionally, this skill provides you the chance to expand possibilities for your work environment. In this article, we discuss what language proficiency levels are and how to include them on your resume.

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What are language proficiency levels?

Language proficiency levels demonstrate your ability to speak a language. You can measure proficiencies by using strategies and exams that assess accuracy and fluency. Currently, there are no universal standards to measure language proficiency, so it is the responsibility of the company to grasp your proficiency in areas like reading, writing, speaking and listening. Mastering these areas gives you a competitive advantage over other applicants seeking international employment or jobs that require you to know a second or third language.

You can categorise someone's proficiency into six general categories, including:

Proficiency level 0

Proficiency level 0, or sometimes called A1, is the proficiency level for people who have little to no fluency. If you are someone with no proficiency, then you have no knowledge of the language and there may only be a few words you can use or understand. If you have a little proficiency, then you may be familiar with basic phrases and have some understanding of common expressions people use every day.

Proficiency level 1

Proficiency level 1, which you can call A2 or elementary proficiency, is a proficiency level for individuals who can speak with simple sentences, like asking and answering really basic questions. You might refer to this stage as someone's start to language proficiency. This level might describe a foreigner travelling to a new country who started learning the local language a few weeks prior.

Proficiency level 2

Proficiency level 2, which you can call limited working proficiency or intermediate B1, is a proficiency level for people who can understand social sayings and simple commands. This person can have casual conversations to a limited degree and usually needs assistance when conversations become more extensive. However, at this stage, you can grasp the main points even if you can't understand everything being said.

Proficiency level 3

Proficiency level 3, which you can call professional working proficiency or upper intermediate B2, is a proficiency level characterised by the ability to make substantial contributions to a conversation with a client or at the workplace. At this level, a person can speak with a more expanded vocabulary as long as the speed of communication is normal. You can understand the primary purpose of more complex conversations.

Proficiency level 4

Proficiency level 4, which you can call full professional fluency or advanced C1, is the level that most employers prefer from their employees. This level of proficiency allows you to have fairly advanced conversations on a diverse range of subjects and topics about current events, technical information and personal life matters. Your accent may still exist to a minor degree, but it is generally not a hinderance to your ability to converse.

Proficiency level 5

Proficiency level 5, which you can call native proficiency or master C2, is the level of proficiency on-par with native speakers of the language. Someone at this level no longer has an accent and understands all the small nuances of the language that anyone under this level might miss. You can understand the verbal and written aspects of the language with ease and can contribute to virtually any conversation, no matter how complex the topic.

Related: Building Communication Skills: 10 Types of Listening

When should you include your language proficiency levels on your resume?

Here are some of the reasons why you might include your language proficiency level on your resume:

When you are applying to a multilingual company

If you are applying to work for a company that is located in a country with citizens who are multilingual, then the employer may want employees who have a working proficiency of some of those languages. If you know two languages that are commonly spoken there, then that can make you a more desirable candidate. You generally have more career opportunities when you can speak multiple languages fluently.

Demonstrates your drive to develop and grow

If you work for a company that is native to your home country, but has work in a completely different nation, then having language skills that you had to learn by yourself demonstrates a desire to improve the language competency. When you put this on your resume and show it in an interview, the employer may recognise that your core values align with their own. A willingness to grow and expand your skills is seen as a desirable trait for most employers.

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Shows your willingness to work in a diverse working environment

Whether you are working with a diverse clientele locally or plan to work overseas, your language competencies are a valuable asset. Your efforts can help to improve your company's global business efforts. It also demonstrates your willingness to perform multilingual work.

How to feature language proficiency levels on your resume in 4 steps

Follow these four steps to help you include your language proficiency levels on your resume:

1. Take a test to determine your proficiency

Find out how proficient you are in the languages that you speak. See if the company where you are applying has a language scale of its own for workers who are not native to the country. This may warrant a phone call or email to their corporate office for further information that you may not be able to find on their website. Once you test your proficiency, you should know what level to put on your resume.

Here are some examples of proficiency tests you can take depending on the language you speak:

  • Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL): You complete this test on a computer that requires you to speak into a microphone, so make certain to at least have basic computer skills. There are no fail or pass scores; instead, you receive a score that ranges between zero and 120 points.

  • Cambridge English Qualifications: This qualification is high value on a global scale and is a more comprehensive certification than the previously mentioned certification. Contrary to TOEFL and IETLS, a candidate can fail a Cambridge certification.

  • Diplomas de Español como Lengua Extranjera (DELE): The DELE exam is the most high rated and widely accepted Spanish certification.

  • Chinese Proficiency Test (HSK): HSK is China's only official Mandarin Chinese proficiency exam and consists of HSK-Level 1 to HSK-Level 6. These exams are paper-based and electronic and also feature an oral component.

  • Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT): JTPT is the most widely recognised Japanese language test and is available in 62 countries. Candidates receive scores on a scale of N1 to N5, with N5 being the most advanced level.

  • Diplôme d'études en langue française, and Diplôme approfondi de langue française (DELF and DALF): Students who pass DELF and DALF exams provide certifications by the French Ministry of Education. The DELF certification is for basic and intermediate language students, whereas the DALF certification is for proficient users.

  • Goethe-Zertificat Deutsch: This German certificate exam has global recognition and you can take it at test centres all around the world.

Related: 10 Ways To Improve Your English Communication Skills

2. Use a practical scale of measurability

Begin by using the framework examples above to find out if you are a novice, distinguished or any skill level in-between. In case an interviewer asks how you measured your proficiency, you can inform them about how you went about doing so. Going into detail about this process shows your willingness to learn and communicate how you are finding a solution to sell yourself to the employer.

3. Put the information in a proper area on your resume

If you speak multiple languages, consider adding a languages section to your resume. Highlight what languages you speak and your proficiency in each one of them. A language section can be just as important as the skills, education and other common sections you find on a professional resume.

4. Include the languages that you are most proficient in speaking

It is important that you put your native language first on your list and then place the other languages you have based on how proficient you are speaking them. Whether you work as a trilingual linguist or an international website developer with a standard knowledge of French, it becomes even more essential for you to include your language proficiency rankings accurately. An employer may ask for you to demonstrate your language competency skills, so ensure the information you provide is truthful and verifiable. Consider that your resume is the employer's first impression of you, so provide reliable details about yourself.

Example of language proficiency levels on a resume

Here is an example of how you might rank your language proficiencies on your resume:

Language proficiency levels

  • *Hindi: Native proficiency C2*

  • *Indian English: Native proficiency C2*

  • *British English: Advanced proficiency C1*

  • *French: Elementary proficiency A2*

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