Essentials starter-set halflings and humans ROLL to see what extra languages they know. That’s more old-school than old-school. Even in first edition, characters had a choice about what their extra language would be. (By the way, did you know that 1e dwarves could never learn more than 2 extra languages, regardless of intelligence?)
Roll a d6 to see which extra language you know.
1 Deep Speech (the language of horrible monsters of the deep earth)
2 Draconic (the language of dragons)
6 Primordial (the language of elemental creatures)
For some reason I love this chart. I’m sure it’s just a Starter Set rule, made to avoid having new players make uninformed choices, and that in later books, extra languages will be chosen by the player. But some strange Tarzan of my soul lets out a bloodthirsty victory howl whenever character elements are chosen by a die roll.
Also, Deep Speech is identified as the language of creatures of the “deep earth”. Outer-planes monsters really do get around. They’re in outer space between the stars; in dungeons under our feet; outside reality itself. I guess that for D&D characters, the easiest way to reach them is to venture into a dungeon. In real life, we have access to spaceships! Go NASA! Bring us back some colors out of space!