The article refers to the problems of language and retrieval competencies of information-retrieval systems’ users. The author defines terms: “language competence”, “semantic competence”, “communication competence”, and “grammatical competence” in a linguistic aspect. She also proposes the “retrieval competence” term referring to information-retrieval languages (IRL) and systems (IRS). As to the former, she indicates different languages competencies of their authors (active competence) and users (passive competence). The author discusses relation of a language competence in IRL aspect to such factors as competence in natural language, knowledge about reality (in both object and documentation aspects), information-retrieval language characteristics (paradigm relations, analogies in lexical units’ construction), user’s experience in IRL and IRS. She emphasizes an increasing role of natural language and retrieval tools in information-retrieval systems.