Recently I applied for a job that had a job description written in my native language (which is not English). In the job description “Working level of English” was mentioned as a requirement.

However no additional details were provided about the language this job position is in. I received an email from the company that was in English to schedule an interview in person. Is it appropriate to ask whether the language of the position is going to be English?

I don't feel confident enough to work and communicate entirely in English on daily basis. Should I just decline the job?

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    I've worked with multiple people of different backgrounds in an English-language environment who didn't feel comfortable in English when they started. Being exposed to a language every day meant that they massively improved in confidence and competence within a year. Given they ask for a "working level" it seems reasonable that they wouldn't expect the successful applicant to be fluent from day one, and they will decide if your English is good enough. Sep 21, 2017 at 9:07
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    I am perfectly fluent in English, and while I do understand French quite well, I usually do not apply to French positions mainly because I have not spoken the it for years now. At the end of the day, it might be your call deciding wether you feel comfortable enough with English. I have worked with many people whose grammar was way much more worse than yours. Sep 21, 2017 at 9:12
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    If you wrote this question all by yourself, then you are all set!
    – PagMax
    Sep 21, 2017 at 10:16
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    @PagMax Speaking comfortably is a different level than spending 5 minutes with assist of spelling & grammar checker to craft a few paragraphs of text. You only see the final effect here, but not whole effort.
    – user11153
    Sep 21, 2017 at 11:56
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    You should mention what kind of job this is in your question - it sounds like 'working level of English' in this case simply means a level of English good enough to work with primarily English-speaking individuals (which I personally think you've already demonstrated with your well-worded question), but we don't know that for certain unless you mention what kind of job it is.
    – Zibbobz
    Sep 21, 2017 at 13:31

8 Answers 8


Yes, it's appropriate (and necessary) to ask this and also ask what level of English language is required.

Asking this up front will save time and prevent you from applying for a job for which you might not be suited.

Your written English (here) is excellent, in my opinion.

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    +1 and agree with assessment. Nothing in your writing shows any problem with the written language. You used proper sentences, punctuation, spelling, and summarized the issue very well.
    – Nelson
    Sep 21, 2017 at 8:50
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    +1 and spoken English can be assessed during interviews. It is the interviewers not the interviewee decide whether you have working level of English or not. Sep 21, 2017 at 11:03
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    @Nelson Nothing? What about "in English on daily basis" and "In the job description was mentioned"? It's great English. We don't have to make it better than it is. Sep 21, 2017 at 15:03
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    @MillieSmith To be fair, I typo things worse than that daily, despite being a native speaker.
    – jpmc26
    Sep 21, 2017 at 22:58
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    @MillieSmith yeah, this question is better formed than most of mine, and I speak English, and only English. At some point, the bar of “prefect English” becomes unattainable. I will still correct my grandmother (rarely) on grammar- she’s 87 and has written 3 books. If someone at that level isn’t writing “perfect” English, who is?
    – Tim
    Sep 22, 2017 at 6:05

If the company is based in a country where English is the main language, they may assume you at least know enough to work effectively if you are applying.

If the job description has emphasised that 'working level of English' is needed, it may suggest that they use other languages too. There should be no harm in a simple email, along the lines of "based on your job description, I see that a working level of English is required. My primary language is <insert here> and I can speak English at a conversational level. I was just hoping to confirm what other languages are spoken in the workplace or with external contacts." Something like that should give you an idea if you are out of your depth.


If your written English is any indication of your spoken English then you will have no trouble with the role as your written English is excellent.

If the role suits you but you are unsure about whether you have the correct level of one skill (in this case English) then I wouldn't be too concerned. Most jobs evolve over time & so do people so what you think of as a really important skill (spoken English) the company may see as an optional skill that you can develop over time.

Contact the company regarding the level of English they would require but also take the interview. There is always something to learn from an interview - you may just learn that you are right for the job!

  • 2
    The question presented was clear, concise, and easily understandable. However, we do not know how long the questioner spent editing the question. There is not enough data to properly assess the questioner's written English.
    – emory
    Sep 21, 2017 at 14:52

Yes. Interviews are a two-way street. Not only has the company you are interviewing with to determine whether you're good enough for the job, it's also your main opportunity to find out whether the position is a fit for you. You have to find out whether the work you are expected to do is what you want to do. If you're expected to do something which is a too big a hurdle (whether that's using a language you don't feel comfortable with, work hours, dress code, whatever), it's better to find that out during the interview, than after you've started the job.

It's not a shame to say after the interview "this isn't going to work for me". And with 'after the interview', I don't mean right after the interview. You can back out any time before signing a contract.


It is more than necessary for you to find out the primary language of the position.

Employers actually appreciate when you are inquisitive about the nature of the position you are interested in, and ideally would want you to understand the culture of there workforce...

If you don't fit into the culture of the workforce(being that everyone else is speaking English, and probably a few other factors), you will either not make it there, or it will be a miserable existence ahead of you.

In summary, either get comfortable primarily speaking English, or better yet(at this point in your life) find another job.


You should definitely ask.

Two specific examples: (1) In a multi-national company, the "working language" for formal reports etc may be standardized across the whole company and therefore different from the language where a particular branch of the company is located. Of course you can expect informal emails and casual office conversation (but not necessarily important formal meetings) to be in the local language.

(2) In some industry sectors the "working language" is controlled by the regulatory authorities, not by the choice of individual companies. That applies to aerospace, for example - all formal certification documents, and manuals for operating and maintaining equipment, etc, are required to be in (a simplified, standardized subset of) English.

There will probably be some specialists assigned to ensure compliance with the "simplified English" that is permitted, but their job is not the translate documents from other languages into English, and similar specialists also work in companies where English is the native language.

If there is any ambiguity about the meaning of the "unsimplified" document, they should be sorting that out by working with the originator of the document, not "guessing what it probably means!"


One thing I would say about declining the job is that the decision of whether your English is good enough to effectively do this job is the company. When they interview you, they have to talk to you and decide if your English is sufficient to effectively perform the duties of the position. If they think that your English is good enough then that means you deserve the job.

If you don't feel comfortable enough with English then you can decline the job. If the employer has decided you are qualified then the only other thing that matters is if you want to take it.


Is it appropriate to ask an interviewer about the language the job position is in?

Sure. As answered elsewhere: you're allowed to ask interviewers questions. It is good to try to make yourself look good when asking such questions. So, don't ask:

Can I get by with my current skill?

Instead ask:

What level of fluency will be needed to be doing this job very well?

In the job description “Working level of English” was mentioned as a requirement.

That is, unfortunately, vague. They didn't say "multiple college-level English courses required", or something so clearly defined. They said, "working". You need to have enough language that your skills effectively work. Whether your skills will work for their workplace depends on your skill, and also depends on their workplace.

Is it appropriate to ask whether the language of the position is going to be English?

No. Don't ask this. You can safely assume that English is going to be part of what is needed for the job. After all, they did ask for it.

I'm keeping the above answers rather short because other answers seem to have addressed those questions well enough.

I don't feel confident enough to work and communicate entirely in English on daily basis. Should I just decline the job?

No. Don't do that. People doing that result in many jobs being given to less qualified people who didn't just disqualify themselves. Even if you don't meet the posted requirements, it is worth pursuing a position of interest. Often companies post "requirements" hoping to attract top talent, but they settle for less. Another reason companies post such "requirements" is so that people feel less qualified when they get to the interview, so the companies are in a better bargaining position. Jobs are frequently given out to people who don't qualify for all of the posted requirements, so definitely don't let a simple requirement statement knock you out from even showing interest (unless the job posting explicitly mentions that unqualified people should not apply, which I have seen, rarely).

In your case, you do appear to meet the requirements. So, by all means, do apply. If they need more than what you can offer, hopefully that will come out during the interview. If not, you can also ask them when they let you know that you have been selected. When you're told that you're hired is another opportunity to ask more clarifications about your new job. In most cases, if you change your mind before your first day, that won't be too impolite because that will still be a rather minimal disruption to the company.

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