How do you include your language skills in a CV

A curriculum vitae is, alongside the well-known cover letter, the first impression a potential employer will have of you. Therefore the CV contains many different types of information about you so that the reader can form an image of who you are exactly and what your skills are. A CV will mention several strong suits, such as knowledge of computers, your degrees and language skills. We will explore the latter below: when do you list your language skills on your CV and how can you do this in a clear and structured manner?

What does a CV contain?

A CV contains all the information about yourself which could be of importance for a potential new employer. You are subtly selling yourself, as it were, enhancing your good sides and downplaying any weaknesses. Because they are personal documents, CVs are all different. They do all need to include certain fixed elements, like personal data and education details.  

Another element you see quite often in CVs is a section about your skills. This part isn’t about completed education or work experience, but about other positive aspects that may not be included in those categories. For example: courses and certificates, knowledge of certain software packages, and publications in various media.

Language skills
A different example of a skill an employer might be interested in, is knowledge of languages. This should be a summary of the foreign languages you can speak and write. Mentioning this knowledge could be very important with regards to international job applications, for example, but in view of the continually increasing globalization, it is recommended to list your language skills in all cases.

How do I add linguistic skills to a CV?

The easiest way to include linguistic skills in your CV is to use a table or a graph. That way the reader can immediately see which languages you do and don’t master. You can distinguish between different ways of knowing a language:

  • Speaking
  • Writing
  • Reading

Speaking a language is the most important part. If, for example, you can speak German, the employer knows that he could deploy you in countries where German is spoken, or you could work together with German speakers.

Writing a language generally is more challenging than speaking it. More often than not this is difficult because you have to write the correct conjugations, your spelling should be faultless, etc. If you can write perfectly in more than one language it definitely should be mentioned in your CV.

How well you can read a language also says something about how well you comprehend it. This could very well be a reason for the employer to choose your CV over somebody else's.

How should I measure my level of fluency?

There are several levels of fluency in mastering a language. If you’re from Flanders, there is a good chance that you speak Dutch well. In that case we would use the term “Native speaker”. Do you speak French quite well, but it is not the language you grew up with? Then you could say you are Fluent or Good. In short, these are the different terms we use to describe how well you understand a language:

  • Native speaker
  • Fluent
  • Good
  • Acceptable
  • Moderate

Another option is to make use of the international standards that are used to indicate language proficiency. These are level A (the basic level), level B (higher level) and level C (excellent).



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