Mon. Jul 15th, 2024

What is Giannis Antetokounmpo in American Sign Language?

All you have to do is fingerspell “Giannis” and everybody understands that you mean the world-famous Milwaukee Bucks player, Brice Christianson says. Because ASL can be a fluid language, some might use the signs for Greek and basketball, but Christianson prefers the more classic approach as understandable to more people who are Deaf and hard of hearing.

Christianson is an alumnus of UWM’s Interpreter Training Program in the School of Education who has made a business out of sports and entertainment interpreting. He launched P-X-P (which stands for “play by play”) two years ago. He’s a professional sign language interpreter and the founder and CEO of the business.

He has interpreted news conferences and ceremonies for the Milwaukee Bucks, and earlier this year he interpreted the state of the league address for National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman before the Stanley Cup finals. That was the first time the NHL used an ASL interpreter for the event.

“Brice has been and continues to be an incredible resource to the Deaf community,” said Barry Baum, chief communications officer of the Milwaukee Bucks and Fiserv Forum. “Fans in the Deaf community have shown incredible appreciation of having him sign our press conferences for the coach and players, pre-game and post-game.”

Christianson’s career grew out of his family background, though it wasn’t a straight and easy path. Growing up in Appleton, ASL was his first language because both of his parents were Deaf. He remembers going to sporting events with his dad and “interpreting” for him – Christianson puts the quote marks around interpreting because “I had limited language at the time. Whatever I heard, I had to parse together and think of what was important for my dad.”

He initially planned to become a nurse and started school at Western Technical College in La Crosse, but soon found that wasn’t the right career choice for him. But, when he was working as a phlebotomist at Gunderson Lutheran Hospital, he connected with a Deaf patient and discovered a new path.

He applied to an ASL Interpreting program in Oregon. However, he needed a letter of recommendation from a certified ASL Interpreter, so he asked a woman who had been his mother’s consistent interpreter in the community. She was a UWM alum, and said she’d write the letter -– if he also applied to UWM.

There was only one problem, Christianson said: “My grades sucked.” He was initially turned down at UWM but wrote a one-page letter of appeal, explaining how passionate he was about becoming an interpreter.

His appeal worked.

“Whoever read my appeal believed in my passion and what I had to say. I never met this person, but when I came here to school, there was always this obligation to make …….