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Written by Rolf BaxRolf Bax

How to list languages on your CV

14 min read
How to list languages on your CV
Language skills can set you apart from the competition, making knowing how to list languages on your CV essential. Whether you're fluent in French, dabble in Danish, or have mastered Mandarin, showcasing your language skills on your CV can help open doors to fresh opportunities.

However, figuring out how to list languages on your CV can be confusing. In our comprehensive guide, we'll explore different ways to highlight your language skills, format your language fluency and provide clear examples of how to present them on your CV so that you can make a strong impression on potential employers.

Should I list languages on my CV?

Absolutely! Having a few languages under your belt can be a serious advantage. Think about it – with our booming tech scene and the growing number of multinational companies calling Ireland home, speaking more than just English can be like having a golden ticket. Imagine chatting with clients in German, troubleshooting a problem with a French colleague, or even just ordering your lunch in Turkish!

Now, you might be thinking, "Hold on a minute, I'm not exactly fluent in anything else other than English." That's perfectly fine! Even if you're just learning a new language or brushing up on your French, go ahead and put it on your CV. 

Many employers here value any level of language ability, seeing it as a sign of your willingness to learn and adapt. If you have any language certifications or qualifications from the likes of Conradh na Gaeilge or Alliance Française, be sure to include those, too.

Listing your languages shows you're not afraid to take on a challenge and are open to new experiences – qualities employers appreciate and actively look for in new candidates. Ultimately, your language skills might just be what lands you your dream job!

Expert tip

Rather than using vague terms like "good" or "conversational," use a recognised scale like the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). This framework categorises language proficiency into six levels (A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, C2), providing a clear and universally understood way to communicate your abilities.

For example, on your CV, this would be structured as: 

  • Irish: A2 (CEFR)
  • German: B2 (CEFR)

This adds credibility to your CV and helps employers quickly assess your language skills and determine whether you meet the requirements of the role.

How to assess your language skill level

To assess your language skills, begin honestly evaluating your abilities in the four key areas: reading, writing, speaking, and listening. For reading, ask yourself: Can I comfortably understand articles, books, or websites in the language? For writing, try drafting an email or a short story and see how well you can express your thoughts. When it comes to speaking and listening, consider how well you can hold a conversation, understand a podcast, or follow a film without subtitles.

If you’re using the CEFR framework, it becomes much easier to pinpoint your language proficiency, since CEFR provides detailed descriptors for each skill level, from beginner (A1) to mastery (C2). 

Additionally, numerous online tests and resources, such as Duolingo or Babbel can help you evaluate and improve your language skills. Remember, being honest with yourself is key. Overestimating your abilities can backfire during an interview or on the job. But don't underestimate yourself either! Even a basic understanding of a language can be a valuable asset.

Expert tip

If you have experience with a particular dialect or regional variation of a language, mention it on your CV. This can be particularly valuable for languages like Spanish (Castilian, Latin American, etc.) or Arabic (Modern Standard, Egyptian, Levantine, etc.). It shows employers that you have a nuanced understanding of the language and can adapt your communication style to different cultural contexts.

For example:

  • Portuguese: Fluent (Brazilian)
  • French: C1 (CEFR), proficient in Québécois French

This level of detail demonstrates your versatility and cultural awareness, making you a desirable candidate for positions requiring interaction with diverse populations or regions.

How to list languages on your CV

Showcasing your language skills on your CV is easy with our handy language sidebar. This feature is available on most of our CV templates and allows you to visually display your proficiency in each language, making it a breeze for potential employers to assess your abilities at a glance. Simply list the languages you speak and then indicate your level using our intuitive scale.

It usually looks just like this:

  • English ★★★★★
  • Irish ★★★★☆
  • Spanish ★★★☆☆

Within the work experience section

Your language skills aren't just confined to a sidebar or skills section. You can seamlessly weave them into your work history to showcase their practical application. 

Did you use your fluent German to communicate with clients in Berlin? Mention it! Were you the go-to person for translating documents from English to Irish? Highlight it! By incorporating your language abilities into your work experience descriptions, you prove your proficiency and demonstrate the value you bring to a team. 

This approach helps to paint a vivid picture of how your language skills have contributed to your past successes, making you a more well-rounded and desirable candidate. 

For example:

Project Manager, Sonas Solutions November 2020 - August 2023

  • Managed English to Irish translations, ensuring accuracy and cultural relevance for diverse projects in Dublin, Cork and Galway.

Education section

If your language skills were honed through formal education, don't let those achievements go unnoticed. Your education section is the perfect place to showcase your dedication to language learning. Include details such as language courses taken, degrees earned in foreign languages, or study abroad experiences where you immersed yourself in another culture. 

This demonstrates a commitment to ongoing learning and personal development, traits that employers highly value. For example, you could mention "Bachelor's Degree in French Language and Literature" or "Completed intensive Spanish language program at Universidad Complutense de Madrid.” By highlighting these accomplishments, you provide concrete evidence of your language proficiency and passion for different cultures.

For example:

Trinity College Dublin

Bachelor's in European Studies

  • Specialised in Russian and Italian
  • President of An Cumann Gaelach
  • Completed studies abroad at Universidad de Complutense de Madrid

Within the skills section: 

The skills section of your CV is prime real estate to showcase your language abilities, especially if they are relevant to the job you're applying for. Start by listing the language, followed by your proficiency level

Be sure to specify whether your proficiency is in written and spoken communication or just one. For instance, you could write, "Irish (Advanced - Written and Spoken, Connacht dialect)" or "German (Intermediate - Written, Basic - Spoken)." Where possible, highlight special skills within the language, such as translation, interpretation, or technical writing. The skills section can be a concise yet powerful way to demonstrate your linguistic versatility to potential employers.

Accurately portraying your proficiency in a language is crucial, as it sets clear expectations for potential employers. Remember, overstating your abilities can lead to misunderstandings and disappointment down the line while underselling yourself might cause you to miss out on opportunities. 

By using standardised frameworks like the CEFR or providing specific examples of your language skills in action (e.g., "Translated technical documents from French to English"), you create a transparent picture of your capabilities. 

This not only helps employers assess your suitability for a role but also ensures that you are placed in a position where you can thrive and contribute effectively, leveraging your language skills to their fullest potential.

Expert tip

When listing your Irish language skills, specify whether you're proficient in "An Caighdeán Oifigiúil" (the Official Standard) or a particular dialect. Since Irish has various dialects, highlighting your knowledge of a specific dialect can be a major asset, especially when applying for jobs or educational programs where regional language dialects are valued. 

Language skills CV: what businesses want

While English and Irish remain the dominant language in Ireland, proficiency in other languages can significantly enhance career prospects. Based on information from recent job postings and surveys, the most sought-after languages In Ireland outside of English and Irish include German, French, Spanish, Mandarin, and Polish. German is highly valued due to the strong economic ties between Ireland and Germany, while French proficiency is sought after in sectors such as tourism and hospitality. 

The growing Spanish-speaking community in Ireland has increased the demand for Spanish language skills, and Mandarin proficiency is a valuable asset due to China's growing economic global influence. 

With a sizeable Polish community in Ireland, Polish language skills are also in demand. Other languages like Italian, Dutch, Japanese, and Arabic can be beneficial depending on the specific industry and job role. 

Remember, language demand can fluctuate, and staying informed about current trends is essential for career development in Ireland's multilingual workplace.

Statistical insight

According to the 2022 Republic of Ireland census, nearly 40% of individuals in the Republic of Ireland possess some ability to speak Irish. In Northern Ireland, the 2021 Northern Ireland census reported that over 12% of people had some ability in the Irish language.

The importance of languages on your CV

Overall, listing language skills on your CV can significantly boost your appeal to potential employers. The ability to communicate in other languages outlines your commitment to personal and professional development, showcasing a willingness to learn and adapt. 

Moreover, it highlights your ability to communicate effectively with diverse audiences, a crucial skill in today's increasingly globalised world. Depending on the industry and role, language proficiency can even be a prerequisite for certain positions, particularly those involving international communication or working in multilingual teams.

Beyond career advancement, language skills offer a wealth of personal benefits. They enhance cognitive abilities, improve memory and multitasking skills, and broaden cultural understanding. Being able to communicate in multiple languages allows you to connect with people from different backgrounds, enriching your personal and professional life. 

Ultimately, investing in learning another language and highlighting your proficiency on your CV is a strategic move that can pay dividends in the long run.

Do

Quantify your proficiency with specific details like "5 years of experience translating English to Irish documents" or "Fluent in conversational Spanish after living in Madrid for two years."

Don't

Forget to proofread your CV for any language-related errors and typos. Including these in your CV can undermine your credibility and send your application straight to the rejection pile.

Key Takeaways

Before you start formatting your CV, don’t forget the following tips:

  • Honestly assess your proficiency: Use standardised frameworks like the CEFR or provide specific examples of your language abilities.
  • Be specific and quantify your experience: Mention dialects, certifications, years of experience, or particular tasks performed using the language.
  • Tailor your language skills to the job: Highlight languages relevant to the position you're applying for.
  • Proofread carefully: Avoid errors and typos, which can undermine credibility.
  • Consider the demand: Research the most sought-after languages in your industry or region to make informed decisions about language learning.

Knowing how to list languages on a CV isn’t always easy but at cvapp.ie, we’re here to streamline the process for you. 

With our easy-to-use online CV builder, customisable templates and expert CV examples, we’ve got you covered. Kickstart your career with cvapp.ie today!

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