But if you approach the village’s central cafe, you’ll hear a rather unusual sound. It’s the buzz of conversations among elders in a 3,000-year-old language called Tsakonika.
The speakers are the linguistic descendants of ancient Sparta, the iconic Greek city-state, and part of a rich cultural heritage and population called Tsakonian.
Thomais Kounia, known as the “empress of Tsakonika” for her mastery of the language, tells her friend about the bread she baked that morning, but my Greek translator cannot understand her. Instead, Kounia translates for him in Greek, and he then tells me, like a game of Chinese whispers. I am in awe. These ladies are some of the last fluent speakers of one of the world’s oldest living languages
Today, only about 2,000 of the 10,000 Tsakonians, primarily elders, still speak Tsakonika at all, and the language is limited to 13 towns, villages and hamlets located around Pera Melana. While Greek is the region’s official language, Tsakonika is often spoken at home and casually in public here. Yet, its future remains uncertain.