Artwork by: Katya Simacheva
Speaking multiple languages can make you stand out from the applicant pool. Here’s how!
Language is one of the most prominent ways that the world is able to connect. In many countries around the world, it’s common for people to speak multiple languages. Yet surprisingly, very few Americans can speak more than English.
Speaking multiple languages allows businesses to engage in negotiations with an entirely new market. Because of this, bilingualism is a huge asset in most industries. If you speak multiple languages, you should highlight them on your resume. It will absolutely make you stand out from the hiring pool. Here’s how!
In this article we’ll discuss:
The different levels of language proficiency and how to describe them on your resume.
Where to include language skills on your resume.
Whether or not companies like to know about your language skills.
You may have seen people who list languages on professional documents typically also include the level of fluency they have. This is typically listed in parentheses after the name of the language.
For example, “English (native), Spanish (novice).”
The most common descriptors used are novice, beginner, intermediate, conversational, fluent, and native. These titles will suffice for most people who want to disclose their levels of bilingualism. There is also a scale called the Interagency Language Roundtable that gives more specific delineations of language skills. If you are asked to provide your ILR ranking when applying for a job, this is what they are referring to. For now, we’ll discuss bilingualism on a resume in a more broad scope.
Use this description when you are new to learning a foreign language. It can show interest in continued exposure to a language, which is useful when you are looking for work in a different country. It shows a willingness to learn the local dialect, while also acknowledging that you are not quite ready to fully integrate it.
These descriptors are perfect for someone who has a few years of a foreign language under their belt, but who is not quite fluent. This applies to people who can read a foreign language better than they speak it. Or those who can hold a conversation using basic vocabulary, but can’t express nuanced language skills, like abstract concepts, sarcasm, or politics.
This is reserved for those who can speak a language with little to no errors or reduced speed and also can pick up on slang or new words from context. If you grew up speaking a language, you can use ‘native’. If you have reached fluency in a foreign language, use ‘fluent’.
If you are bilingual, rather than using just that word on your resume, list both or all of the languages you speak followed by the fluent/native descriptors.
The location where you indicate bilingualism will change from person to person. The general rule is that if it is crucial to the position you’re applying for, the information should be placed on the first page, near the top.
Positions that require or prefer a certain language to be spoken will always make it known in the job posting. Sometimes it will be stated clearly in its own section on the job posting, and sometimes it’s tucked into the details of the position. Because of this, always read through the entirety of each job posting.
For people who want to highlight their language skills for a position, add a section titled ‘Languages’ on the first page of your resume.
Under this section, list the languages you speak or are learning to speak, followed by the appropriate descriptor from above.
For the truly bilingual, including those who were raised bilingual or those who have achieved fluency, you have some options. In most cases, it should be appropriate to simply list your languages on your resume. However depending on your situation it might be appropriate to have a bilingual resume, in which your resume integrates both of your native or fluent languages.
A bilingual resume is written using both native and fluent languages. This type of resume is typically reserved for applying to positions that are outside your home country, but where the language of both countries is pertinent.
Some bilingual resume formats suggest splitting the page down the middle and displaying the full resume in each language. However, the best approach for a bilingual resume is to incorporate both languages into one document.
To do this, you can choose which language is highlighted more, and use that one in the main body of your resume. Then you can take the less prevalent language and use it for the titles of your resume sections.
Bachelor’s degree in International Business
St. Martin”s University, 2017
You can also use a mix of languages as you describe your work achievements and skills.
“Oversight of the Departmento de Recursos Humanos, including 7 direct reports and 45 indirect reports.”
Another way this can be achieved is to include section titles in both languages.
“Work Experience / خبرة في العمل”
One tip to keep in mind is that sometimes a company seeks out candidates who speak a language other than the national language of that country. This occurs most often in industries like tourism and international business when the clients are more likely to speak a prominent global language rather than the local language. In these situations, your resume should be written in whatever language the job posting was written in.
Bilingualism is a highly valued skill in the workforce. Include it on your resume.
There are multiple levels of proficiency. When you write out your language skills, be sure to include your level.
If the position you’re applying to requires a specific language, create a section near the top of your resume to describe your language proficiencies.
Emma is a certified employment specialist with over six years of experience in career mentorship and employment training. Emma is passionate about nurturing professional growth and helping people gain momentum in their field. She uses her writing and strategic career planning skills to help her clients fulfill their aspirations and reach new chapters in their professions. In 2020, she helped design Colorado’s first state-certified training program for people with disabilities entering the workforce.