Russian for Heritage Speakers

Sep 2014

Alla Smyslova is one of the greatest professors I have had at Columbia. Coming into the class, my Russian grammar was horrible and I felt as though I was behind everyone in the class. After taking two semesters of her class, I can confidently say that I definitely communicate with family members much better. I can even write essays in Russian. This is all because Alla really cares about her students and is an expert in her field. She knows that everyone comes into the class at different levels and she tweaks the curriculum in such a way that everyone learns as much as possible. She gives a very reasonable amount of work and keeps her lessons interesting. In addition to assigning interesting readings including works of Chekhov, Alla engages students to share information about their backgrounds and their pursuits at Columbia. At the start of every class, everyone had a chance to talk about their day and anything else they wished to discuss. I really enjoyed this and feel like I got to know a lot of people because of it. I encourage any Russian speaker to take this class. As someone who grew up with Russian parents but no formal Russian language education, I really benefitted from this class. Alla is amazing, kind, and will help you go the extra mile to make sure you are learning.

May 2010

Alla Smyslova is a great professor. She works very hard to have a good class (always finds her own handouts to supplement the textbook, encourages us to interrupt her anytime we're confused, patiently repeats difficult grammar rules as many times as necessary). She has so much energy and she puts so much effort into teaching, that you want to reciprocate by doing well. She pushes her students pretty hard, but she is also one of the few professors I've had who actually understands that we have other commitments too. She will meet with you as many times as you want/need to even when it's not convenient for her and she will notice if you're confused. She expects you to pay attention in her class, notices if you don't, and encourages you to speak up. As the reviewer below also stated, more outside readings would be useful, but overall this is a really great class.

Apr 2002

She is one of my favorite teachers here at Columbia. The course reminded me of high school a little bit because of the daily HW and because of the small class size. If you are prepared to do a lot of written work that isn't hard, but a bit time consuming, what you learn in this class is very worthwhile, and Valentina is such a pleasant woman that it makes her rigorous workload bearable. It also seems like she really cares about her students and the atmosphere in my class was really pleasant. I learned a lot and nearly perfected my modest Russian.