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Would the following sentence look OK on a main page of a hypothetical tour company's website:

We offer guided tours in (the) English, Spanish, Italian and French languages.

Or would the word languages be out of place, and the following sentence will be preferrable:

We offer guided tours in English, Spanish, Italian and French.

I've noticed that the second construction is seen way more often on Google. Tour in English language brings up several dosens of sites which were apparently created by non-native speakers of English.

Why so? Would the use of the word (Spanish) language make the sentence imply that the visitors will be sightseeing the language itself, instead of that the guide is speaking Spanish, say?

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1  
+1 for such fine observation :-) –  Kinzle B Jul 31 at 15:22
2  
In cases like this, Google's n-gram viewer can help. –  Nico Jul 31 at 15:42

3 Answers 3

up vote 5 down vote accepted

The 2nd option would be preferable as the language is implied. If you were to offer guided tours of the Spanish language then it would imply it is a language learning center and not a tour guide

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I would use the second option. We can say that by omitting the use of the word languages we have an instance of ellipsis: the omission from a clause of one or more words that are nevertheless understood in the context of the remaining elements. Context - and previous knowledge- will help those that come across this sentence to know that the word languages is implied.

In order for people to understand that they are doing a tour OF a language, you should change the preposition IN to OF.

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The first sentence would be correct only if you use the word "the", and would mean the exact same thing as the second sentence. However, it would not be a good choice, simply because it is not the normal way to refer to languages in English.

The normal way is to refer to the English language as "English", the French language as "French", etc., and this is what will be understood more quickly and look more natural to native English speakers.

Taking @Nico's suggestion to use Google's n-gram viewer, comparing "written in Spanish" to "written in the Spanish language", for example, shows that while both are used, "in Spanish" is 40 to 50 times more common.

The first sentence would not imply a tour of the language itself, unless you actually used the word "of". The word "in" makes you safe from that.

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