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How to Write Language Skills in a CV

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Give your audience what they're looking for. If language skills will get you the job, make sure your reader can find them with little effort. The CV can be a lengthy document and depending on where you are in your career, these key skills can be hidden somewhere in your history. Position your language skills where they will be noticed, even if your CV gets only a 20-second look.

Comparing a CV and Resume

Resumes and CVs are two terms that may be used interchangeably. However, they are not the same. The CV is a much longer account of your history. Think of it as a living document accounting for all of your history that grows longer as you age and your career progresses. The resume is a document that can be likened to marketing material. It sells the candidate in the best light, strategically listing those experiences and qualifications that have the potential to grab your future employer's attention. In the U.S., the CV is generally used in academia and is predominantly the document you'd expect from someone with a Ph.D. Resumes, on the other hand, are for everyone else.

Listing Language Skills on Your CV

Always check with colleagues in your field to confirm CV formatting preferences. Although some general rules apply, these vary across academic disciplines. Generally, you want to organize the content on your CV based on its order of importance to the employer. So if language skills are required for the position you're applying for or the field in which you're employed, they will be listed higher on your CV. If your language skills are simply a plus, you would list them later in the CV, toward the end. Just like the resume, you must be the judge of what the reader is looking for. The main objective is that the reader shouldn't have to search for your language skills if you know that is what they will be looking for.

Describing Your Proficiency Level

Identify the language(s) you speak under a content section labeled "Language Skills." You will also need to list a proficiency descriptor so the employer knows how well you can read, speak and write in the language. Use a descriptor from one of the several well-known frameworks such as the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages and the U.S. Department of State's Language Proficiency Definitions. List each language, followed by your proficiency level. You can also distinguish between speaking, reading and writing by listing those in which you are skilled, including the proficiency level of each.

Writing Your Language Translating CV

The American Translators Association recommends a resume because it is shorter and a stronger marketing tool. As the translator business can be quite competitive, you can't count on a hiring manager spending the time needed to thoroughly review a CV. If you choose to use the resume format, the top of your resume is prime real estate and you want to list your language skills first followed by any specialization you have. If you are fluent in more than one language, the ATA recommends that you clearly distinguish your strongest language pair from the other(s). Hiring managers may use software to scan for resumes that meet their requirements, or may sift through a pile to find the language pair. If you choose to use a CV, follow the same guidelines to list your language skills at the top of your CV.


About the Author

Sara Mahuron specializes in adult/higher education, parenting, budget travel and personal finance. She earned an M.S. in adult/organizational learning and leadership, as well as an Ed.S. in educational leadership, both from the University of Idaho. Mahuron also holds a B.S. in psychology and a B.A. in international studies-business and economics.

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