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A second language could put you in first place for a job -- especially if language skills are advertised as a requirement for the job you're applying to. To get the best results, include related language skills on your resume and expand on your language ability in your cover letter, if warranted.
Where to List Language Skills
Languages are optional on resumes. However, if your language skills are related to the position you are applying for, or will otherwise benefit the employer, include a section on your resume labeled "Languages" or "Language Skills." List the languages you speak in this section. If the job requires knowledge of an uncommon language such as Dutch or Swahili as a qualification, you may want to move the "Languages" section up on your resume as it deserves prime real estate. If the language is simply a plus, put this section lower on your resume, after your related work experience and education. If the language is completely unrelated to the position, you may want to leave it off to avoid wasting precious resume space.
How to List Proficiency Level
Listing a foreign language without proficiency level is too vague. If the language skill is important, provide a descriptor to define how well you can speak, read or write in the language. Use the U.S. Department of State's language proficiency definitions to determine whether your proficiency is elementary, limited working, minimum professional, full professional or native/bilingual. The Common European Framework of Reference and the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages also offer well established frameworks for referencing language proficiency.
Working Experience Using the Language
Employers interested in a language want to know what you can do with it. This is particularly true if the job requires using a certain language regularly in the workplace. Language learned in the classroom back in college and not practiced in a real context or for the past five years is probably not what the employer is looking for. To give the employer a better idea about your language knowledge, include what you have done using the language in previous jobs or related experiences. Include volunteer experience where the language was used, even if the position is not related to the new job but the language skills are.
Include Language Credentials
You can list degrees, certificates, certification and any other confirmation of language ability or proficiency on your resume in the section with your other degrees or certifications. Note that certificates that are nationally or internationally recognized, or endorsed by a well-known institution or organization, tell the employer more than those that are more random. If the certificate cannot be verified or could be questioned, listing it under the "Languages" section might be a better idea.
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.