Hiring managers generally like to see foreign language ability on your resume since it shows you could engage with a wider variety of colleagues and clients. But you shouldn’t always feature your language skills prominently, or even at all. Your current career objectives must determine the extent to which you show language skills on your resume. Picture your target job now, and ask yourself these three questions:

1. Are you open to using your foreign language skills in your next position?

If not, there’s no reason to include them on your resume. Let’s step back for a minute.

Your language skills are just a small part of the overall skillset you’ve gained throughout your personal and professional experience. But your resume isn’t meant to gather all that information in one comprehensive document. Instead, it’s supposed to focus only on those skills you want to apply in your next job. If your foreign language skills fall outside that focus, you can leave them off your resume entirely.

As for English fluency, you can omit that as well because it’s already assumed. The only exception is if you are bilingual and want to call that out in your resume introduction (see “Profile” below). You can do so with this phrase: Bilingual: Fluent in English and [Language].

If you are open to using your language skills, plan on at least mentioning them on your resume.

2. What is your proficiency level in each language?

Envision how comfortable (or uncomfortable) you would be reading, writing, speaking, and listening to each of your foreign languages in a professional setting. Then choose from these options:

  • Native speaker in: [Language]
  • Fluency in: [Language]
  • Advanced proficiency in: [Language]
  • Proficiency in: [Language]
  • Intermediate in: [Language]
  • Basic proficiency in: [Language]

You can also use phrases like Conversational: [Language] or Working knowledge of: [Language], but the above are more precise and flexible in listing multiple languages.

Never overstate your language proficiency. When in doubt, choose the more conservative phrase. Only select “Fluency in” if you can honestly speak the language at about the same level as a native speaker (perhaps just with an accent and narrower vocabulary). If you are unsure of your level of proficiency, you can take a self-assessment created by the Interagency Language Roundtable.

You can also refer to the Common Framework for Languages to rate your language skills and provide helpful ways to convey your knowledge. Foreign languages can be a great conversation starter in the interview phase (especially when your resume also includes travel or international work experience). But they can also be a conversation killer if the hiring manager suddenly starts talking to you in a foreign language and you can’t keep up.

Once you’ve jotted down your proficiency in each language, consolidate them by level and order them from most to least advanced. This finished text for a language resume section may be part of a greater skills section at the top or the bottom of the document. It can also be a stand-alone category if you choose. Here’s an example:


  • Fluency in: Spanish
  • Proficiency in: Italian, Portuguese
  • Basic proficiency in: French

or Skills

  • Computer Software: Microsoft Office, Google Docs, Adobe Creative Suite
  • Languages: Spanish (native speaker), Fluent in Portuguese and Italian

3. How interested are you in using your language skills in your next job?

Your answer determines how much you should feature these languages elsewhere in your resume and also where the language skills section is featured. Let’s say you’re fluent in German but somewhat indifferent about using it in your target job. You can leave your resume as is and not mention your German fluency aside from in the languages section.

But if you’d love to speak German in your next job and maybe you’ve even narrowed your search criteria to companies with clients or operations in Germany, it should be highlighted. In this case, look for ways to make your German fluency a more noticeable feature of your overall resume. Consider citing it in these four sections:


Foreign language skills can make a great outro to your resume’s Profile section. Here is where you could put Bilingual: Fluent in English and German as the last line of your description, like this:

A senior database developer with over 10 years of experience, specializing in Rest APIs, Microsoft Azure, SQL Server, and database administration. A strong history of building and leading global cross-functional teams to perform multimillion-dollar data center consolidations. Adept at architecting scalable database solutions for enterprise-level organizations. Bilingual: Fluent in English and German.

Conversely, if speaking German is prominently mentioned in the job description, you can lead with: Bilingual (English/German) senior database developer with over 10 years of experience, specializing in Rest APIs, Microsoft Azure, SQL Server, and database administration. A strong history of building and leading global cross-functional teams to perform multimillion-dollar data center consolidations. Adept at architecting scalable database solutions for enterprise-level organizations.


If you learned the language as your college major or minor, specify that as well as any study abroad programs you completed. For example:

  • Bachelor of Science (B.S.) Computer Science (minor in German) 
  • University of San Francisco, San Francisco, CA September 2007 – May 2011
  • Completed study abroad program in Munich, Germany (Spring 2010)

You may even elaborate on this experience by clearly stating if you lived with a host family where only German was spoken in the home, for example. Another option might be to mention which courses you completed while abroad. Also, clarify that classes were taught exclusively in German and all class materials and texts were in that language.


Have you built or honed your fluency through more recent training or adult education programs? Consider listing those in this resume section.

For example:

  • Westchester Community College, Continuing Education, September 2023 to December 2023
  • Advanced conversational skills in Spanish
  • Completed 45 hours of in-class training and an additional 15 hours through volunteering at an English as a Second Language (ESL) program.


Think of the times you’ve applied your fluency in your work experience so far and consider fleshing out those details under their respective job description. For example:

  • By using knowledge of German and European cultures based on time living abroad and fluency in German, successfully set a strategy to expand company operations in German and U.K. markets.
  • Managed a cross-functional project team located in the U.S. and Germany. Built cohesion amongst members by sharing cultural information and welcoming everyone in both English and German at the start of each meeting.
  • Provided translation services to customers via phone and email
  • Sold premium products to clients in Germany and other major European countries

Remember your objectives

Your resume offers plenty of options and flexibility for including or omitting your foreign language skills. The best strategy for you comes down to your career objectives. If you are leaning into roles where your language knowledge is required or preferred by the employer, feature it prominently on your resume.

When it is not expressly stated for the role you are applying for, but you know the company’s clients or other office locations, include them. If you are at a beginner level of a language and the job description states another language is strongly preferred or required, you can also include it. But you will likely not be selected for an interview if the foreign language is imperative to success. By clarifying your target job and finding answers to the above three questions, you will know the best way to address foreign languages on your resume.

Having foreign language skills is a great way to differentiate yourself from other candidates. Showing proficiency in the language and cultural competency is the winning combination. We have all heard the phrase, “it just doesn’t translate,” which is of particular importance here. If you have the vocabulary, terminology, and context, your language is meaningful, impactful, and more accurate.

Frequently Asked Questions About Resume Language Skills

How can I provide examples of how I utilized my language skills in a professional setting? -

This information should be clearly stated on your resume as part of the section it is attached to. When you are creating resume bullet points for an internship in which you translated documents, this should be a salient point and as descriptive as possible.

For example:

Translated medical records for over 50 patients from original source and language, (French to English) in writing and provided cultural context (Haitian) to nursing staff.

Avoid wording such as: “translated French documents to English for medical use.”

Are language skills more marketable in certain industries or roles?-

We are in a globalized economy, so they are helpful across industries and roles. Even if you only want to work in the U.S. with regional clients, additional language skills are an added benefit for you to bring to an employer. If you are a teacher and wish to teach Spanish, it will be a requirement, but if you wish to teach math but happen to be bilingual in Mandarin, this can be an asset to the school.

You can flex your ability to speak Mandarin with some of your students and their families, for example. Educators, health care providers and their support staff, sales associates, social service workers, technology support, media, hospitality, and business are just a few cases of foreign language skills showing up without necessarily being part of the general job description.

Is it ok to list certifications or formal assessments to show language proficiency?-

Absolutely. Include the name of the program or assessment that validated your proficiency. If you obtained knowledge from LinkedIn Learning, be sure to add your certificate or badge to your LinkedIn profile.

Where can I find information to improve my language skills?-

Many community colleges offer courses at a reasonable price and partner with local libraries or chambers of commerce to provide practice conversation sessions with native speakers. If you already have familiarity with a language you may want to level up your proficiency before applying for a job. The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) offers an assessment for those looking to obtain a professional level of language proficiency.

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