October 04, 2014

Wolfe , Loren Gold_nugget
Elementary and Intermediate French

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

Professor Wolfe is simply brilliant. I came to her Elementary French I class having received no prior education in French, and just a year later I'm thinking of it as my second language. I've learned so unbelievably much in this short time, and I attribute that to her fabulous, nurturing personality and phenomenal teaching style. Prof Wolfe consistently creates some of the most comfortable classroom environments I've ever been in -- and that's saying a lot coming from a non-traditional (read: much older than average) student. I love how she encourages not only casual conversation and participation from everyone, but also rigorous engagement with French history and culture. Her efforts alone inspired me to study abroad and take her "Paris In Context" class -- in Paris!!! -- over this past summer. Of course, my life has been forever changed.

I can't imagine how different my summer would have been without "Paris in Context," as the curriculum curated an intimate introduction to the city through engagement with museum exhibitions, historical monuments, restaurants, music, night life, traditional summer events, the list goes on. Each week, Prof Wolfe split the class into small rotating groups assigned to 9 or 10 eclectic city visits. We then presented on different aspects of our collective visits, mainly through subjective responses, current events, and critical French literature. This was my first experience with a French "elective" outside of my language requirement, and I was challenged in terribly frustrating and invariably motivational ways. There were many moments when my skills weren't advanced enough to communicate my "very collegiate level" ideas on the social world, so the class pushed me to new levels of expression and a general commitment to progress and master more of the nuances that come with French. This is a fun and critical course for a serious student who's willing to put in the time and energy it takes to engage with the material and offer meaningful contributions to discussions (and also visit ALL the amazingly dreamy parts of Paris as a requirement).

It could be easy to feel like the underdog in language courses at Columba/Barnard, but Prof Wolfe effectively teaches to every level in the class. Not once have I ever felt that I couldn't figure out a tricky grammar rule or tackle a written response to a lengthy article in French. Everyone should experience a professor like her! She's also one of the sweetest, most understanding people I know, who cares so much about her students' absorption and enjoyment of the language and always takes the extra time to make sure we're really grasping the material. I would go on and on but I think you're getting the point. Regardless of your level of exposure to or proficiency with French, take her class! If you're considering studying abroad in Paris, take her class! Even if you don't go to Barnard and are nervous about learning a new language with traditional-aged students, take her class! You will have no regrets, you will leave with a deeper passion for the language and culture, you will feel more accomplished, inspired, and smarter than before you started, I promise.


Rigorous but not too strenuous, typical of all languages at Columbia. Being consistent is key -- an hour a day of language practice, a text to work through and discuss every week, vocab and/or grammar quizzes every few weeks, midterm, final. If you do a little bit each day, you will progress with ease and should do quite well. She's also amazing for one-on-one coaching during office hours. Take her class!