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When do you put languages on your CV?

 Language Learning Forum : Languages & Work Post Reply
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Bilingual Triglot
Senior Member
United Kingdom
Joined 3265 days ago

1185 posts - 1513 votes 
Speaks: English*, Italian*, French
Studies: Japanese

 Message 33 of 86
13 April 2012 at 7:16pm | IP Logged 
Cavesa wrote:
I may be a bit naive, since my experience with jobs has been limited so
far(I'm a
student, having a second part-time job now), but I would never put there a language in
which I do not have an official certificate.

I don't have a certificate for either English or Italian. As I live in the UK and my CV
is written in English, I doubt I'll ever need one for English. No employer has ever
expressed a professional interest in my Italian, so I doubt that a certificate would
help there either.

That said, if my French or Japanese ever reach the level where I would feel comfortable
working in those countries, they'll be added to the CV certificates or no certificates.

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Senior Member
Joined 3502 days ago

164 posts - 248 votes 
Speaks: English*, Spanish
Studies: Arabic (Written), Croatian, German, French

 Message 34 of 86
31 May 2012 at 11:59pm | IP Logged 
Honesty. If there is ever a thing to be honest about on a résumé, it´s language ability.
You never know if your interviewer was in Cameroon for a Peace Corps stint and knows
fluent French...

I put them on as soon as they reach a basic level. I list my languages as basic,
intermediate, and fluent, with a note for native language(s) as well. That way, if
someone were to speak Arabic to me, I could show that indeed I speak it albeit at a basic
level. Another note - don't be too shy to call yourself fluent if you really are!
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Bilingual Diglot
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Speaks: English*, Tagalog*
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 Message 35 of 86
12 August 2012 at 1:35pm | IP Logged 
When I was applying to join the foreign service of my home country, I was was too conservative to list down
any of the foreign languages I was studying on my CV. I was avoiding a scenario during the panel interview
(the panel being comprised mostly of senior and retired career diplomats) wherein they would try converse
with me in the languages I would list. Under the duress of being a lone examinee in front of a panel of
retired ambassadors would be one of the least favorable times to test a foreign language skill, I assumed.

True enough, some of my co-examinees reported being grilled during a portion of the panel interview in the
foreign languages they listed on their CV's.

Under different circumstances, I'm sure that listing the foreign languages you have a firm command of will
do justice to the countless hours of study one has invested in the acquiring the foreign languages one can
speak or read.
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Winner TAC 2012
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Speaks: Spanish*, EnglishC2
Studies: German, Russian, Japanese

 Message 36 of 86
12 August 2012 at 4:08pm | IP Logged 
If you hand in application-tailored CVs, then leave out irrelevant languages; however I prefer the different cover letters approach.

I *always* list languages I can do something with (f.ex. I can speak some Russian but I still can't read properly), making clear, when applicable, the difference between self-assessed level and certified level.

I got asked by an interviewer why I had listed some languages more than once (epic mental 'facepalm' moment).

On another occasion I telephoned an academy to see if it was OK to apply for a TEFL position there even if I didn't meet one of the stated requirements (a degree in philology). The interviewer asked what my English level was and she gave me the impression she didn't quite believe it but told me to drop by for an interview anyway such and such day. After a very bad case of fake CV reading (I handed in to her, she made look she was reading it for a couple of minutes, and proceeded to ask me the exact same things she had supposedly read) that I won't ever forget, it turned out my English was way better than hers and that made her a bit mad for whatever the reason (maybe she was having a bad day). When the interview was almost over, she asked me if I weren't going to ask her what the salary was. I answered 'well, I take it it is such-and-such as per your offer listing, isn't it?' and the real fun began. "Of course" I "had to be mistaken" (which, just in case, I said might be possible -- but I kept to myself I had checked it again right before heading for the office), it "wasn't possible" to check it on-line on the spot, etc., etc.

Of course, I didn't get the position... and the offer stayed there, unmodified, until I stopped caring to check for laughs and to warn others.

So, being honest? A sure-fire way to quickly find out people who you're probably better off not working with/for :)

Edit: the usual spelling and wording blunders...

Edited by mrwarper on 12 August 2012 at 5:28pm

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Trilingual Octoglot
Pro Member
Joined 3591 days ago

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Speaks: German*, SpanishC2*, Swiss-German*, FrenchC2, EnglishC2, ItalianB2, Dutch, Portuguese
Studies: Russian, Swedish
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 Message 37 of 86
12 August 2012 at 9:48pm | IP Logged 
I've always applied with a CV in which I listed all my skills. The point is to be
honest, and to assess your skills properly - your interlocutor could be a native
speaker, wanting to test your knowledge just for fun.

My experience so far has been, that I've always been invited to a job interview after
sending in my CV. All the HR guys have brought my language list up for discussion. I'm
now writing this to "show off", but to give a hint, that your language list may cause
the HR executive to re-read your CV more carefully.
I would recommend to put in a clear assessment of the level you have.
Certificates/diplomas do better. Don't write "fluent" or "advanced level" or so in your
CV. What does that mean anyway? Fluent? In which situations? Fluent on a basic level?
I'd rather write something like "fluent business conversation". (In German there are
some keywords being used in CVs, like: "souveränes Telefonieren, effektives
Diskutieren, sicheres Verhandeln". - Sorry, have no 100% correct translation so far!)

Good luck!

Edited by Mae on 12 August 2012 at 9:50pm

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Senior Member
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Speaks: Croatian*, English, Spanish, Portuguese
Studies: Norwegian, Hindi, Nepali

 Message 38 of 86
13 August 2012 at 11:59am | IP Logged 
I would put only English, Portuguese and Spanish on my CV. :(

Some people list all the languages they ''know'', for example:
English (near-native), German (fluent), Italian (intermediate), Japanese (basic),
Chinese (understand in writing, but cannot speak), Hindi (understand in speech, can't write or read)...But, I think, less is more, when it comes to languages in your CV.

The employer can always ask you to describe ''what you did yesterday'' in a language you list in your CV. That's why I wouldn't put Malayalam on my CV. (And no, Malayalam is not Malay, which all my friends think :( ).

Edited by Medulin on 13 August 2012 at 12:02pm

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Bilingual Super Polyglot
Senior Member
United States
Joined 3238 days ago

200 posts - 413 votes 
Speaks: Spanish*, Guarani*, Arabic (Levantine), Arabic (Egyptian), Arabic (Maghribi), Arabic (Written), French, English, Persian, Quechua, Portuguese
Studies: Modern Hebrew

 Message 39 of 86
15 August 2012 at 12:56am | IP Logged 
When I graduated from college (2003), I only put Spanish, Guarani, and Quechua on my resume. I felt a bit odd putting Guarani and Quechua there (especially Quechua), since I was certain the employers had no clue about those languages. In the interview, they showed interest and I feel that it was part of the reason I got the job. In eight months (I work as an environmental scientist, BTW), I was offered a temporary working trip to Ecuador (for five months), presumably because I knew Quechua.

When I applied to my most recent position (spring 2008), I only added Arabic to my list. I felt just as great about Persian, but I didn't want to list more than four languages other than English, and since I had known Arabic for some years by then, I picked Arabic over Persian. Nowadays, I'd probably keep it the same - and if in the interview it were to come up, I may mention Persian and French.

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Speaks: Portuguese*, Norwegian, French, English, Italian, Papiamento
Studies: Mandarin, Georgian, Russian

 Message 40 of 86
17 August 2012 at 8:01pm | IP Logged 
I've been through times when I added more languages to my CV, and times of less languages. There was even a time when I thought languages would make the difference - for example, when I applied for a trainee at a French company, but it never actually paid off due to the limitation in another topic of my CV - namely the lack of experience in the field I was applying for, since I've basically worked only as a civil servant since I graduated.

So, in Brazil so far it's no point knowing anything but English and Spanish. We're a big monolingual country surrounded by quite a few Spanish-speaking countries, and even though we're interested in foreign cultures our formal education doesn't allow for people to actually come to a decent level in languages other than Spanish and English.

To illustrate that, I'd notice that whenever a well-known language publishing house decides to publish a series in Brazil, only the titles for English, Spanish, French, German and Italian are published. That was the case with Assimil and with Berlitz/Langenscheidt. I bet the same with TY's back in the 80's. Any other foreign language is too exotic. There' a timid Mandarin trend but I don't think the company itself will use any of your mandarin skills. I added basic mandarin to my CV at one of the websites I host it, and it didn't bring me any job offers. So now my CV has English, Spanish and French at an usable level and German and Italian just as the basics (I state that I can read Italian with no problem and that I can converse better in German than in Italian). No Russian, no Norwegian, let alone Esperanto. A friend of mine who is a true Assimil-eater wanted to add Indonesian to his CV and I told him off.

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