Language Proficiency Levels

By April 15, 2023No Comments

Language Skills

Language proficiency levels can add significant value to your candidacy when you apply to jobs. This is especially the case for candidates pursuing a career in finance. In this article, we’ll learn what the different proficiency levels are and how to showcase your linguistic skills on your resume.

How to Write Language Proficiency Levels on Resume

In general, we recommend indicating your language proficiency level on your resume through a summary and supported by an official grade.

Think of a summary as a colloquial way to explain to anyone on the street your level of language proficiency. If someone asks you whether you’re fluent in a certain language (i.e. German), what would you say? You might say “I’m a native speaker” or “I’m a beginner”. Candidates should summarize language proficiency using the following levels:

  1. Native: You’re a native speaker if this is your mother tongue and you can speak it as well as residents of countries that have the language as the official tongue.
  2. Fluent: You’re fluent if you can use the language to converse smoothly without struggles.
  3. Intermediate: You’re intermediate if you can use the language to converse but may struggle with certain expressions or using certain vocabularies.
  4. Beginner: You’re a beginner if you just started learning the language.

On the other hand, a grade is a more official and formal way to indicate your level of language proficiency. Different jurisdictions have official grades for different levels of proficiency for their respective languages. For example, United States has an official grade for English proficiency levels from 0 (no English) to 5 (native English).

Taken together, on the resume, you should write your language proficiency level indicating whether you’re Native, Fluent, Intermediate or Beginner and, for all levels other than Native, supported by your official grade if you’ve taken the official language assessment test. For example, a job candidate may write the following on your resume: English (Native), Chinese (Intermediate; HSK 4). You shouldn’t write a grade level for native languages because in theory, native speakers wouldn’t take a language assessment test for their own mother tongue.

Language Proficiency Level on Resume CV

English Language Proficiency Levels

Interagency Language Roundtable (ILR) is the official United States government standard for English language proficiency. It has six main grade levels on its proficiency scale.

  • 0: No Proficiency / Limited Proficiency
  • 1: Elementary Proficiency
  • 2: Limited Working Proficiency
  • 3: Professional Working Proficiency
  • 4: Full Professional Proficiency
  • 5: Native Speaker

That being said, if you’re applying for jobs in the United States, it is not customary to include English proficiency level on your resume. In fact, successful candidates in the US generally won’t even have to write their English proficiency level on the resume because the interview is in English and so interviewers can evaluate your language proficiency directly. We’ll repeat because this is important. It’s not customary to include English proficiency level on your resume when applying for jobs in the US.

However, if you’re in another country where the official language is not English, it would make a lot of sense to indicate your English proficiency level on your resume.

Chinese Language Proficiency Levels

HSK, or Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi, is a popular standardized test for non-native Chinese speakers. It assesses Mandarin Chinese proficiency in reading, writing, and listening. For job seekers and students, HSK certification can open doors to opportunities in China and beyond. Many Chinese universities and companies require a minimum HSK level for admission or employment.

HSK consists of six levels: HSK 1, HSK 2, HSK 3, HSK 4, HSK 5, and HSK 6. Each level builds on the previous one, reflecting increased language skills.

  • HSK 1 represents beginner proficiency, where you can understand basic phrases and communicate simple needs. This level covers 150 essential vocabulary words.
  • HSK 2 takes you to an elementary level, with the ability to handle daily conversations. You’ll need to learn 300 words to achieve this level.
  • HSK 3 marks an intermediate threshold, where you can discuss various topics and express yourself with more confidence. This level requires knowledge of 600 words.
  • HSK 4 shows an upper-intermediate level, allowing you to discuss complex matters and understand Chinese texts. You’ll need to master 1,200 words to reach this level.
  • HSK 5, the advanced level, signifies fluency in Mandarin, both written and spoken. Achieving this level requires a vocabulary of 2,500 words.
  • HSK 6 is the highest level, demonstrating native-like proficiency and mastery of Chinese. You’ll need to know over 5,000 words to attain this level.

European Language Proficiency Levels

European languages, such as French, Italian, German, Spanish and Greek, measure language proficiency using a grade metric known as “CEFR” or Common European Framework of Reference. CEFR has six levels.

  • A1 is the beginner level and indicates basic understanding of simple phrases.
  • A2 is the elementary level and allows for short conversations and routine matters.
  • B1 is the intermediate level and enables learners to handle travel situations and express opinions.
  • B2 is the upper-intermediate level and helps learners engage in complex discussions on various topics.
  • C1 is the advanced level and signifies fluency in the language and the ability to understand implicit meanings.
  • C2 is the mastery level and demonstrates native-like proficiency and effortless communication.

Learn More

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