how did they learn to translate languages into other languages how did they know which words meant what HOW DID TH
English Person: *Points at an apple* Apple
French Person: Non c’est une fucking pomme
*800 years of war*
Speaking of the origins of translation, you know what’s really god damn awesome?
The Rosetta Stone. It’s a broken lump of granite rock about 3’9” tall (the average height of a 6-year-old), possibly the most important rock to the development of human culture ever. 2200 years ago it was engraved with a decree made by Ptolemy V (who was 13 at the time, having been on the throne for 8 years already) announcing that he had become a god. The important thing is that the stone contains exactly the same text in three very different languages - Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics (where each symbol indicates a sound, a word or an idea depending on context), Egyptian Demotic script (what hieroglyphics evolved into by the time the stone was engraved - Ancient Egyptian was already old and outdated) and Ancient Greek (vaguely similar to modern Greek - a bit more different than Shakespearean English seems to us).
Before the discovery of the Rosetta Stone, modern civilisation had lost most information about what Ancient Egypt was like - nobody knew how to read hieroglyphs. Most of what was known about Egyptian history had either been passed down through Egyptian culture or observed by outsiders writing in Latin or Greek. The ability to compare the three copies of the decree in three languages enabled the translation of hieroglyphs into modern languages for the first time, and are the reason we can understand Ancient Egyptian archaeology today - reading inscriptions inside temples and tombs, and the writing on tablets found in buried villages.
The Stone wasn’t always revered though - it was originally left in a temple by its creators (where it was little more than a trilingual government information leaflet of the day), then stolen in medieval times by the Ottomans and used as building material to construct a castle in Rosetta on the Nile Delta, now called Rashid. When damage to the fort was being repaired by French soldiers in 1799, someone spotted the writing and removed it to be studied - though it wasn’t until 1822 that the hieroglyphs were largely translated, and refinement took still longer. The Rosetta Stone has been near continuously on display in the British Museum for over 200 years. While it is incomplete (about a third of the original block is missing) and other similar steles have been discovered since, it is the original key to our modern understanding of Ancient Egypt.