ElektroTal (talinthas) wrote in linguaphiles,

historical linguistics

We always read about stories of folks like Marco Polo and Fa Hsien and ibn Battuta, world travelers who would leave their homes and go half a world away to do random things, like translate buddhist scriptures from pali or whatever. My question is, how? It's hard enough to learn a language today, with all of our aids and accessories and places to learn. How did these first travelers learn ancient chinese when all they knew was italian, or arabic or what have you? And while it's one thing to learn a language well enough to get by, it's another entirely to start translating texts and stuff.

any insights?

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