A History of the English Language (And Why Interpreters Should Care)

Presented By: Alek Lev
Date/Time: Oct 21, 2023 12-4pm MT
RID CEUs: 0.4 PS
Presentation Language: English

Workshop Description:

When do interpreters stop and think about that other language…English? ASL interpreters spend a full 50 percent of their work day using and understanding English, but how much time do they spend studying the language? We agree that we are better interpreters for knowing the history of American Sign Language - how it defines a culture, how it has changed and grown over time, and how oppression has influenced its users. Wouldn’t knowing the history of English make us better interpreters still? This webinar provides a fresh perspective on the language -- its usage and variety of users, its history and cultural relevance, and how our use impacts the quality of our interpreted interactions. For many of us, English is our native language, and we rely on an “unconscious competence” to get us through our days. But in this workshop, join writer, director, and recovering English major Alek Lev on a romp through the language of the Canterbury Tales, William Shakespeare, Lady Gaga, and beyond, and uncover the history of English, and why interpreters should care.

Workshop Objectives:

As a result of attending this workshop, participants will be able to:

  • Classify English into four linguistic eras
  • Name six phenomena through which language changes
  • Compare inflected and uninflected languages
  • Differentiate among accents, dialects, and languages
  • Examine English and ASL idioms
  • Recognize four key English language challenges for interpreters
  • Identify 17 differences between English and ASL


              Alek Lev Picture

              Presenter Bio:

              Alek Lev is a nationally certified American Sign Language interpreter (NIC-Master, CI, CT), a director, actor, and writer, and a political organizer. He has interpreted for three presidents, two Broadway shows, and one Beatle. Over the last twenty years, he has worked freelance in New York and Los Angeles, has taught translation at California State University at Northridge, and has presented CEU workshops to interpreters all around the country. Alek graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Wesleyan University with a BA in Theater and English.

              Alek trained at The National Theatre of the Deaf’s Professional Theatre School, and stage managed, interpreted, and performed on tour with their children’s theater, The Little Theatre of the Deaf. In Los Angeles, he has worked with Deaf West Theatre, appearing in Romeo and Juliet and Flowers for Algernon, directing their Much Ado About Nothing workshop, and rehearsal interpreting for Spring Awakening, At Home at the Zoo, and American Buffalo. 

              Outside of the world of sign language, Alek is also a television and film writer, actor, director, and editor. In 2019, Alek directed the feature film entitled What? produced by and starring a mixed cast of Deaf and hearing artists.  He also directed the horror film Ready or Not, and co-starred in the Independent Spirit Award-winning film Conventioneers. He has appeared on television in How I Met Your Mother, Miami Medical, and I’m Dying Up Here. For four years, Alek was the New Media Director for How I Met Your Mother, where he produced and hosted their official podcast.

              Alek also worked on several presidential campaigns, functioning as a campaign surrogate, congressional district team coordinator, city-wide training director, precinct captain organizer, and special project assistant to the State and Field Directors. He also ran - alas, unsuccessfully - to join his local community council.

              And when he can find a 25th hour in the day, he is the Vice President of the International Buster Keaton Society. 


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