The marketplace has changed dramatically in recent decades, as increased mobility and globalization have made rapid daily trade across continents more widespread than at any point in history. Along with that increased globalization has come a need for language proficiencies that go beyond a worker’s native tongue. In fact, many companies are consistently seeking employees who are proficient in more than one language – and educational facilities are increasingly focused on teaching those skills to their student. Of course, being proficient in a second or third language is one thing. Properly conveying that information to prospective employers is another thing entirely. So, should you list languages on your resume? How should you list languages on a resume.
There are different schools of thought among resume specialists, with some arguing in favor of creating a separate section for languages and others arguing that this information should simply be highlighted within the skills or qualifications section. There are valid reasons for both choices, and either will work to ensure that the hiring manager understands your language proficiency – if, of course, you accurately document your skill level. The following are some tips to help you know when you should list secondary language proficiencies on your resume.
Once you’ve decided that your proficiency merits mention, the next thing to consider is how you should define it. Language is a tricky thing to describe, since proficiency can come in many forms – and those who learn second languages often only have true proficiency in certain areas of the language. As a rule, there are four basic elements of language proficiency:
As you might imagine, not everyone possesses equal measures of proficiency in every one of those areas. Some can speak and understand the language with ease, but struggle to read or write in the tongue. Others may have some understanding of others’ use of the language, but struggle to speak it themselves. And so on. Determine your strengths and weaknesses so that you can accurately define your proficiency for the employer.
When deciding where to include languages, there are two main options.
The first is to include it under your skills section. This is probably the best option when there is no specific requirement for language proficiency included in the job listing.
The second option is to list it under “other information” or “additional credentials”. You can also list it under your education.
This is often the best choice when you know that language proficiency is something that the company is specifically seeking from its candidates.
There are several ways that you can provide this information. Some people like to simply list the language and number of years that they’ve studied the tongue. Others try to grade their proficiency. Perhaps the best option is to define your own proficiency in terms that indicate its usefulness. For example, if you can speak, write, understand, and read the language, you can consider yourself fluent in that tongue. If you can converse in it and understand it when others speak it, then you can refer to yourself as conversant in that language.
It’s also important to describe yourself as bilingual, to ensure that the hiring manager doesn’t assume that your secondary language is the only one that you speak (yes, this can happen!). Just something to keep in mind so that you avoid any unnecessary confusion.
You can also go list your language in a more creative way that also shows the proficiency level.
As you can see, there are some simple ways to list your language proficiencies on your resume. The important thing is to properly assess your skill level and accurately portray the skill to your prospective employer – even for jobs where no secondary language skills may be required. At the end of the day, that information may just be the determining factor that helps you to get the job of your dreams!