Of course people can study languages on their own, just by being in close contact with the people whose language you want to learn.
And the ex I always keep moaning about speaks 3 or 4 languages, and she never learned them in school, but apparently she picks it up very easily.
The reason I said Old English must have been very close if not almost similar to ancient Frisian (Old Frisian is from the 12th century) is because of this:
Discovering the Dutch: On Culture and Society of the Netherlands - Emmeline Besamusca, Jaap Verheul
From page 89:
The absence of a serious language barrier between Anglo-Saxons, Frisians and Saxons, who were able to understand one another without too many problems, allowed the use of insular texts such as these in the conversion of Germanic-speaking pagans on the continent.
This is from a forum (by a "Espadachin"):
As for historicity, Frisian and English used to be mutually intelligible. There are stories of English missionaries (Sts. Boniface and Willibrord, notably) coming to Frisia in the 7th and 8th centuries, and they would be understood perfectly well by the people there. English (or better, Anglo-Saxon) was originally from Oost-Friesland and south Danmark anyways.
Reply by "Frank06":
I am inclined to believe you, but this is very hard to verify, any which way. The first (extensive) texts in Frisian date only from the 13th century (Old(!) Frisian).
So we don't have any contemporary material that can be used to compare Old-English (Anglo-Saxon, if you want) and, well, Pre-Old-Frisian from the 7th or 8th century.
Reply by Espadachin:
Admittedly there aren't texts to compare for Old Frisian/Anglo-Saxon, I'm just going off of what was in Bede's History of the English Church (written 8th century) as well as Letters of St. Boniface. There was another story in the Life of Wilfred, an English saint from Northumbria, where he was shipwrecked and landed on the Frisian coast. It said that he had no problem understanding the Frisian, as the language was very close.
I also recall a story about St. Boniface (also originally an Anglo-Saxon) speaking with Frisian pirates near Dokkum (in Fryslan), shortly before they cut his head off.
So I reasoned that if Old English was very similar to pre-Old Frisian, why is the language used in Frisian law texts from many ages later so different, and why is the language used in the OLB so similar to these later Frisian texts?
The OLB language should have been close(r ) to Old English.
Edited by Abramelin, 09 September 2012 - 04:14 PM.