En Route: A Career Blog

The Professional Touch: Enhancing Candidacy with Language Skills

AUTHOR: Darlene Zambruski
POSTED: January 1, 2008 at 8:39 am

by Darlene Zambruski, CPRW, SME

With each passing year, the global marketplace becomes a smaller, more interrelated community. With increasing frequency job postings are listing foreign language skills as desirable or required in a candidate. Because of this shift in focus from all-American (eg: English speaking only) to international, language skills should be showcased.

This can be accomplished using these methods:

  1. List language skills in the Qualifications Summary at the beginning of your resume.
  2. Include Language Skills in a separate, special section.
  3. Provide additional information regarding special schooling in English (for overseas students) and any certifications granted that indicate proficiency.

When NOT to Include Language Skills on a Resume

Never include data on a resume that indicates “familiarity with” or “knowledge of” a language. If you are not fluent or conversant in a language, then your skill level regarding it does little to enhance your candidacy. An additional note: It’s not necessary to write: “Fluent in oral and written…” Fluency in a language assumes you can write, read, and speak it.


- I am multilingual, but have a varying degree of skill in these languages. What is the best way of presenting this on my resume?

There are two options. You can write:

Fluent in English, Spanish, and French; conversant in Portuguese, Thai, and Chinese.

Or you may be even more specific writing:


English – Fluent, certified through US Language Institute, 2003

Spanish – Fluent, certified through US Language Institute, 2003

Portuguese – Intermediate; currently enrolled in advanced classes

Thai – Advanced; will take certification test Summer 2003

Chinese – Intermediate; currently enrolled in advanced classes

- I am a native English-speaker, but also fluent in Chinese, and have a Chinese name. Because of my name, should I even indicate that I know the Chinese language (I’m afraid a US company will think I’m not fluent in English)?

Rather than exclude an obvious skill, write something like this:

Bilingual, with fluency in English (native-speaker) and Chinese.

- I know 15 languages, and numerous dialects, should I list them all?

If the companies to which you are applying have international divisions where these languages and dialects are spoken, then certainly list them. Generally speaking, the only languages/dialects you might not include would be those that are not widely used in international business.


Showcasing Language Skills for a Foreign Applicant in the Qualifications Summary:


Marketing & Sales Background ~ Client Relations ~ Bilingual, English & Japanese

Conscientious, results-oriented professional with a solid business background in promoting products, providing superior customer service, recruiting and managing teams, and researching competitors to determine market strategy. Currently seeking admission into an MBA program with an emphasis on marketing to gain additional knowledge for career success. Academic achievements include A.U.A. certification in English, 2002.

Emphasizing Language Skills in a Special Section:


– Fluent in English, Russian (native tongue), and Hungarian.
– Demonstrated excellence as an interpreter in verbal and written translations.
– Interpreted conference lectures on business issues from English and Hungarian into Russian for audiences of up to 1,000 attendees.
– Translated business documents from English and Hungarian into Russian and back.
– Certificate in Hungarian Language, UK Language Institute, 2001
– TOEFL scores include a CBT 260, which is equivalent to a PBT 620.


Darlene Z.

Darlene Zambruski is a resume writing expert and CPRW (Certified Professional Resume Writer) with more than 13 years of industry experience. She has authored 10,000+ resumes in every industry and at every career level.

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