[tweetthis]CV Lies: The Languages We Pretend To Speak[/tweetthis]

While lying on a CV is hardly new, lying about languages has reached heights previously unknown. The first question about linguistic experience is an easy one: Which languages do you speak? The applicant writing a brief summary of their experience realizes that merely stating their mother tongue is likely to underimpress any reviewer, and so they lie. With frequent job changing a demoralizing factor in today’s economy, an applicant may feel desperate to ensure their readiness to travel for the job or even to be transferred to another country. For instance, in the UK an applicant for a US position may feel pressured to present themselves as a fluent speaker of Spanish, while in reality they speak the half-remembered words for ‘hello’, ‘goodbye’, and ‘please.’

According to a survey on the translation website, a list of the top ten CV language lies includes in descending order of frequency French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Polish, Dutch, Japanese, and Welsh. The English speaking world prizes competence in its employees, and the larger the corporation or the more widespread the visibility of a professional, the more applicants will lie to fill the perceived need. Like the United States, England itself has regional dialects as well as distinct languages, and the listing of Welsh denotes that within one single country, there are multiple tongues. There needs to be more research in this area, because numerous celebrities have come clean with their own lies on CVs or in personal interviews, and the public’s interest is piqued by their methods.For instance, the popular personality Laura Fraser on the award-winning TV program ‘Breaking Bad’ admitted to lying in an interview about her ability to speak German. While she remembered little of her schooling in the language other than to say what her name is, she inflated her knowledge to ‘speaking some German.’ In this case, she used the qualifier ‘some,’ which equates to ‘basic’ on a scale of language proficiency such as this: Bi-lingual (also, tri-lingual, or multi-lingual), Professionally fluent, Strong proficiency, Proficient, Elementary, and Basic. This scale, used by The Accent Training Center which works to reduce accents among those whose mother tongue is not English, diversifies the abilities we all have with our language. We learn from birth, acquire a language at an older age or even adulthood. Our languages mean we can move globally with minimal difficulty. Of course, those who are multi-lingual have a tremendous advantage to work in a multi-national corporation. Such polyglots may be assigned a plum position in a highly desired destination such as Tahiti. For the rest of us, we list what we can on a CV, as honestly as we can.

Because the internet is international, job applications may be graded by an HR person who spends less than sixty seconds on each CV. In that light, lying doesn’t sound like such a risk, because CV checking may take up too much time to be profitable. Therefore, the applicant lies with the hope of not being caught. One such evasive method would be to say that fluent Albanian is your second language, the odds being great that no one could verify this. Another aspect of lying on CVs is to be hyper-truthful in the hopes that such disingenuousness leads the HR person to believe the rest of the CV. For instance, stating that you are conversational in Chinese but do not write it would be a convincing lie. Transliteration is an added complication in the world of competitive language talent misdirection. All in all, the ability to speak another language in whatever degree is integral to the image that we want to project, that we can understand different cultures. Any employer needs this breadth of mind in their pool of professionals.