ElektroTal (talinthas) wrote in linguaphiles,

How did the ancients learn?

I've been reading the travelog of al-Beruni, and am astounded at how easily this man learned the various languages of the Persian empire, India and elsewhere. Similar stories abound of buddhist monks going from india to china and vice versa, and translating scripture from pali and sanskrit into mandarin or what have you.

My question is how? How did these travelers just pick up these immensely complex ancient languages and get them to a high enough level to be able to discuss science, religion, and mathematics on such scale? Even with all of the linguistic technology we have today, we'd consider their achievements as amazing feats.

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