When All Those French Classes Come in Handy on Network TV

By Chris Ariens 

New MSNBC Willa Frej is going above and beyond for the network. Hired as a video researcher and digital writer, Frej has jumped into action utilizing a different part of her skill set — her fluency in French.

Frej, who has been fully immersed in learning the language since the age of 3, has been the impromptu on-air French translator for the network, first during the Charlie Hebdo attacks in January, and this week covering the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps.

Frej attended the Lycee Francais in Chicago from pre-K through high school. The school, which is part of network of Lycees around the world that teach the French curriculum, was co-founded by her mother.

“I was a member of the school’s inaugural class – the school opened the year I began pre-K,” Frei says.

The 2013 Yale graduate previously worked in the NBC News bureau in Washington, DC then joined MSNBC working on Ronan Farrow‘s show. She now works on The Bridge — the news hub that coordinates coverage across dayside programming and digital platforms.

“I always hoped my French would come in handy while at MSNBC,” Frej tells TVNewser. “I was able to rise to the occasion in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks, translating on air, tracking down French sources and tracking updates via French media. It’s a huge part of my identity.”

Her primary interests revolve around foreign news and she hopes to one day leverage what she calls her “globally-minded experiences” into analysis of world news. “Hopefully, I can also help usher in a demand for quality content for the digital masses.”

“MSNBC is an exciting place to be right now,” she says. “It’s so encouraging that so much attention is being paid to these types of stories.”

MSNBC also brought on a freelance German translator this week. And for years, following the 9/11 attacks, the network had Arabic translators on staff.