Levels of Language Proficiency
For anyone pursuing a career in corporate finance, it can be important to include your level of language fluency on your resume and job application. There are five language proficiency levels, and many employers require at least level three, which is essentially a professional (functional) working proficiency level. This guide will discuss the five levels in more detail to ensure you have the appropriate one listed on your resume.
0-5 Language Proficiency Levels
Detailed below are the language proficiency levels that you can choose from for your resume. They are based on the Inter-agency Language Round-table (ILR) scale that is set by the U.S. Foreign Service Institute.
0 – No Proficiency
At this lowest level, there is basically no knowledge of the language. The person may know a few words, but can’t form sentences or carry on any type of conversation.
Phrased as: “No English” (example)
1 – Elementary Proficiency
At this language proficiency level, a person can form basic sentences, including asking and answering simple questions. This is essentially the starting point of the language proficiency levels. This level reflects someone who is traveling to a new country and who has just begun to study a language.
Phrased as: “Elementary Spanish”
2 – Limited Working Proficiency
Someone at this level can handle basic work commands and social phrases. They can carry on limited casual conversations at the office and discuss their personal life. Someone at this level still needs help with more extensive conversations in the language. They can only operate independently in basic conversations.
Phrased as: “Limited Working English”
3 – Professional Working Proficiency
Someone at this language proficiency level can make contributions to office meetings, have conversations with clients, and carry out most work functions requested of them. A person at level 3 can speak at a normal speed in the language and has a fairly extensive vocabulary. They likely still have an accent at this level and probably require help understanding subtle and nuanced phrasing. Some employers consider this level or above as basically acceptable, depending on the specific job.
Phrased as: “Professional Working Spanish”
4 – Full Professional Proficiency
Full professional fluency is desired by most employers. Someone at this level can have advanced discussions on a wide range of topics about personal life, current events, and technical topics such as business and finance. People at this level may still have a minor accent and may occasionally misspeak or make minor mistakes. Their vocabulary is extensive and they can carry on conversations with ease. Most employers consider level 4 or above acceptable.
Phrased as: “Full Professional Spanish”
5 – Native / Bilingual Proficiency
Someone at this language proficiency level was either raised speaking the language as their native tongue or has been speaking it so long that they are completely fluent. They have little or no accent.
Phrased as: “Native English” or “Bilingual English & Spanish”
Language Proficiency Levels Resume
Let’s look at how to list language proficiency levels on your resume. They are typically listed at the bottom of your resume, under a category such as “Skills” or “Additional Information”. You should list your proficiency level in the shorthand terms shown above as “phrased as”. You can also include a slightly more detailed explanation of the level. For example, you might indicate your fluency level as “Full Professional French – Level 4 – Can easily converse in French regarding either business or personal subjects, including technical discussions of corporate finance”.
Below is an example of what it looks like to properly include language proficiency levels on your resume.
Thank you for reading CFI’s guide to language proficiency levels. To separate yourself from the competition, enroll in CFI’s Financial Modeling and Valuation Analyst (FMVA)TM program and gain the skills employers are looking for in their finance hires.
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