This is something that’s been bugging me for a while - and try as I might I couldn’t come up with a snappy title to convey what I mean.
In the age of European exploration, obviously the explorers encountered loads of native people who had never had any contact with Europeans, and spoke languages that (presumably?) were unrelated to European ones. And yet in almost every case, the explorers - or certainly missionaries who came later - managed to communicate with these people, and learn the local language.
How did they do this? If you have no common ground whatsoever, how do you figure out what words mean what? Sorry if this has been asked before - I’m on a very slow connection and searching is just too horrible a proposition.