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The Right Way to Add a Language Proficiency to Your Resume
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AnnaMarie Houlis
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Journalist & travel blogger
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How do you describe your skills level on a resume? If you have language skills, for example, you might want to include them on your resume — especially if these language skills can help you to do your job well and will set you apart from other candidates who are applying for the job. But should you even brush the topic of language skills on your resume — and, if so, how do you do it?

Here are five times when you should include your language skills on your resume, and three times when you shouldn't — plus how to share them on your resume when the time is right!

What are 5 times you should include your languages on your resume?

Here are five times when you should include your language skills on your resume.

1. You're actually proficient in other languages.

You might want to include your language skills on your resume when you're actually proficient in other languages. What is proficient in a language? You can hold a conversation with others who are native in that language, and you can write well and read well in that language — it comes easy to you, like second nature. 

What are the different levels of language proficiency? If you're not proficient in a language, you might be conversational in a language (when you can have basic conversation but you can't really read or write, and the conversation can't advance past simple phrases). You might be a beginner, as well. Beginners are just learning the language and only know basic vocabulary.

2. The language is relevant to your job.

If the language you know well is relevant to your job and will help you to better perform your job, you should absolutely include it on your resume. If, for example, you're applying for a role in customer services, and you need to know different languages in order to better help customers, this could be a huge value you can add to the company. Likewise, if you're applying to teach in a school where there are many English-as-a-second-language students, knowing their native language can help set you apart from other candidates. Employees in travel and tourism also tend to benefit from having proficient or, at least, conversational language skills.

3. The language skills are still fresh.

If you studied a language back in college but haven't practiced for quite some time, there's a chance you may not have those skills anymore. If, however, your language skills are still fresh, they may be worth including on your resume, as you never know how they may be able to help you in your work.

4. The company calls for candidates with your specific language skills.

If the company for which you're applying specifically calls for candidates with your specific language skills, you absolutely want to include those skills on your resume. In this case, not including those skills will almost certainly hurt your chances or getting the job. Share your level of proficiency and be prepared to be questioned about it (and possibly even tested in it!) during the interview process.

5. The language is extremely difficult to learn.

If the language you know is extremely difficult to learn and, therefore, few people in your area know it, you may want to include it on your resume. Whether or not it's relevant to your industry, job or the company at all, it shows that you're a hard worker and have dedicated your time to learning a skill that's not easy.

What are 3 times when you shouldn't include your languages on your resume?

Here are three times when you shouldn't include your languages on your resume.

1. The language is totally irrelevant to the industry.

If knowing a certain language has nothing to do with the industry for which you're applying, the chances are that hiring managers and recruiters won't care too much about your language skills. While people may find it impressive that you can speak another language, they may not understand why you put it on your resume when that space could have been better utilized emphasizing other, relevant skills.

2. Your language skills aren't as strong as they once were.

Again, if you studied French or Spanish or Arabic back in college, but you haven't practiced it in the years since, your language skills probably aren't as strong as they once were. If this is the case, it's probably not worth including these skills on your resume — after all, they're not really skills anymore.

3. Your language skills won't help you do your job.

If your language skills aren't going to help you do your specific job, it may not be worth wasting space on your resume talking about them. If you work in IT or accounting, for examples, your French language skills probably won't matter. Unless your team is based in France or you have a lot of French colleagues, the chances that you'll actually need to use your French are slim to none.

How do you put languages on a resume?

Here are three simple ways to include your language skills on your resume.

1. Create a language section.

Create a section on your resume that's specifically for your language skills. This would be separate from your experiences section and your education section. It could come before or after your skills, but make sure that, if your language skills could seriously impact hiring decisions, you make them as visible as possible on your resume.

2. List your language use in a job description.

If you've had to use your language skills for previous jobs, work that into those job descriptions. For example, if you worked as a travel agent, you might mention in your job description that you used your Spanish to help clients book their travel plans or to work with venues and partners in Spanish-speaking countries.

3. Introduce yourself as bi- or multi-lingual.

If you include a statement at the top of your resume, you can introduce yourself as a bi- or multi-lingual professional in that opening line. This works well if you want to highlight your language skills immediately (for example, if an employer specifically calls for bi- or multi-lingual candidates).

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AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.

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