professor
Heidi Holst-Knudsen

This professor has earned a CULPA gold nugget

Apr 2021

Professor Holst-Knudsen is truly one of the kindest, most considerate professors I've had at Columbia. If you can get into one of her classes, you without a doubt should immediately stop reading this review and sign up because you won't find someone better than her. In terms of the class, Heidi makes an effort to, along with grammar and tense instruction, intersperse French culture, whether it be by means of movies, television shows, books, etc. And she doesn't overburden students with homework. The assigned homework is always clear and can be resubmitted again and again after online submission/grading. Heidi also doesn't believe in large, overbearing tests, preferring to give homework/quizzes on a regular basis, which ends up being a huge relief for students. She is thoughtful and extremely understanding in terms of late assignments. I personally have submitted compositions weeks late with no penalty. Lastly, Heidi did not give us a final exam. Instead, she gave us a final group presentation. This presentation brought the class closer together (even in an online environment), and worked really well to test our knowledge in a constructive way. Summary: Take her class!

Nov 2020

Heidi might easily be one of the best professors at this entire institution. She is the most understanding person I have literally ever met and she cares so so so deeply about her subject. The energy she brings to every class makes me forget we are on Zoom because I'm so engaged with the material. Prof Holst-Knudsen has gone above and beyond to create incredibly detailed presentations to make the transition to online learning smooth. She is great at facilitating conversation from the entirety of the class and is always available to answer questions or meet with us in office hours. Prof Holst-Knudsen is truly inspiring. Going into this course, I knew I wanted to be a French major, but now, I'm thinking about pursuing a concentration in film as well! I would 100% recommend this course to anyone who is interested in French film, culture or improving their language skills. Seriously, you won't find a better course!

May 2020

French Language, Society, Culture through Film Heidi Holst-Knudsen UN3240 Best language teacher I have ever had. Best French language, history, culture and film course. Students will emerge with heightened skills in writing, speaking, listening and comprehension. I learned more in this course about French film, language, and civilization than in any course at Columbia or elsewhere. A great opportunity to learn. This is a true 3-in-one course-- in equal measures a film, French language, culture and history course. When I signed up, I thought it was a film course...for some reason posted under the rubric “French. In fact it is a superior language course. I can't imagine it could be better. Professor Holst-Knudsen engages students in fascinating material and successfully encourages full student participation. If you are a native speaker with an interest in film, you will appreciate this course. If you are a current or future film student, you will gain a lot from this course which provides an opportunity for formal analysis. If you are an undergraduate, considering study abroad in Paris at Reid Hall, this course provides excellent and exciting preparation.. Prof. Holst-Knudsen is an extremely skilled French language educator who is passionate about her subject and loves teaching. A very positive force. Prof. Holst-Knudsen pays careful attention to student contributions both in class and in their writing. She takes great care in her corrections and makes valuable suggestions. The course successfully fosters appreciation of French language, culture and civilization through film. Students are encouraged to write about and discuss aspects of films that are of particular interest to themselves. If you do your assignments and take advantage of all that this professor offers -- viewing and listening, reading and writing, and speaking -- you will learn in this class more than if you had a private tutor. I wanted to take this course again so that I could read more, see more, experience more. There is just so much that one can assimilate in a single semester. This course opens many doors and excites the possibility of learning and enjoying in her students. Prof. Holst-Knudsen is a true ambassador of French culture in America and a gold nugget professor. She embodies everything university students desire and appreciate.

Mar 2020

Best language teacher I have ever had. Best French language, history, culture and film course. Students will emerge with heightened skills in writing, speaking, listening and comprehension. I learned more in this course about French film, language and history than in any course at Columbia or elsewhere. A great opportunity to learn. This is a true 3-in-one course-- in equal measures a film, French language, culture and history course. When I signed up, I thought it was a film course...for some reason posted under the rubric "French." In fact it is a superior language course. The best imaginable. Taught exclusively in French; because the professor engages students in matters fascinating and accessible to all and thereby prompts expression. If you are French speaking with an interest in film, you will appreciate this course. If you are a current or future film student you will gain a lot from this course which provides an opportunity for formal analysis. If you are French major considering study abroad in Paris at Reid Hall, this course provides excellent and exciting preparation. Prof Holst-Knudsen is an extremely skilled French language educator who is passionate about her subject and loves teaching. A very positive force. Prof Holst-Knudsen pays careful attention to student contributions both in class and in writing, taking great care in her corrections and suggestions. She encourages students to select a striking aspect of a film viewed and to write about it. Always with a willingness to share and help you improve. If you do your assignments and take advantage of all that this professor offers -- viewing and listening, reading and writing, and speaking -- you will learn in this class more than if you had a private tutor. I wanted to take this course again so that I could read more, see more, experience more. There is just so much that one can assimilate in a single semester. This class opens many doors and excites the possibility of learning and enjoying in her students. Prof. Holst-Knudsen is a true ambassador of French culture in America. A gold nugget professor.

Jan 2019

Prof Holst-Knudsen is a wonderful teacher and a super nice human being. I came to this class with pretty solid French and was initially a little skeptical about her American accent since I wanted to focus on improving my own, but it was not a problem at all. The class is well-designed, covering major topics such as xenophobia in France, WWII/la résistance, and French industrialisation during the Trente Glorieuses. It would be a great introduction to major French issues for a freshman or someone who hasn't taken college French courses beyond straight-up language courses. Prof Holst is really great at letting everyone talk. I got so much speaking practice, and everybody contributed during almost every class. Prof Holst gives correction when you speak (though not everything) and always does so respectfully and encouragingly. She returns every written post in a very timely manner with detailed feedback on language use. She is so considerate (i.e. having a few assignments rather than actual class right before break when she knows everyone will be gone anyway, not requiring a response post if we have to watch more movies than usual, etc.) Only real drawback is that there's no super critical film theory, if that's what you're looking for. Bottom line: so helpful (especially in terms of language), fun class to take, and just about the most dedicated professor you'll find

Mar 2018

Heidi is the absolute sweetest and she really wants to make sure everyone is enjoying this class and having fun. She isn't French and doesn't have a perfect accent, but if that doesn't bother you she's incredibly knowledgeable and will give you plenty of feedback and help you improve. There was a pretty wide range of skill levels in this class, from people who clearly barely passed Intermediate 2 to others who spoke fluently. I'm Canadian but haven't taken French in a few years so wanted this course as a fun refresher. I would HIGHLY recommend this class if you are at all confident in your French abilities. It is INCREDIBLY easy and she is a VERY lenient grader.

Dec 2017

Heidi is hands down one of the best French professors that I have had at Columbia. As someone who has struggled with the language but has to finish the program for the language requirement, I've found it very difficult to find a professor willing to go the extra mile to make sure that I understand concepts and the myriad of grammar rules that the language demands. Heidi has been so accommodating and has always offered extra assistance. Her attitude is very sincere and approachable and I appreciate her patience where other professors have displayed frustration. While I agree that her accent is quite American, I don't believe it takes away from the course at all. Her intense knowledge of the language more than makes up for it. I found her to be an incredibly engaging professor who is always prepared for class. Class sessions are very well structured and thought out, so if that is an environment that you prefer, she is a great choice. In addition to her language knowledge, she also knows a ton about French culture and makes an effort to integrate cultural topics in every lesson whether it be discussing current events or connecting grammar concepts to films and literature beyond just the scope of a typical Intermediate II syllabus. I am so happy that I got to have her a as a professor for Intermediate I and II and would whole heartedly recommend her to anyone looking for a professor that is personable, invested in your classroom performance, and knowledgable about the subject. Plus she is just a really cool person.

Jan 2014

Heidi maybe a good prof of grammar, but she is by no means a decent pronouncer of french. One must understand that to speak a language perfectly, pronunciation is an immensely crucial part. I would even go so far as to say that one's pronunciation is the final line between native speakers and experienced second-language french speakers. In a class such as Intermediate I, students are making or trying to make such a leap and her below-par pronunciation is stopping us from learning the correct ways of pronouncing french, or even for some, preserving their own ways of pronouncing french. Heidi, as I elaborated, does not seem to possess at all the gift of pronouncing french correctly, let alone perfectly. She struggles to enunciate from the very first class. Some of the classmates in my class spoke "better" french than she did. She also enjoys asking us to translate from English directly, which prevents from acquiring "thinking in the French mindset" which is detrimental to mastering a foreign language. I can tell that she is a nice lady, but she is also somewhat hard to approach, as she puts on this big smile tous les jours and it is hard to tell if she actually likes you or not. Do not venture to take this class just because she has a silver nugget. I have been there.

Jan 2011

What does it take to get a gold star on this thing and why does Heidi not have one?!! Heidi is without a doubt the best professor I have ever had and a true gem of the French department at Columbia. If you have any interest in actually learning the French language from someone who is knowledgeable (read: encyclopedia of French grammar), passionate and pretty much the nicest person around, you should take her class!! She is extremely organized, definitely the fastest grader of all time, and very methodical. You can't help but improve in her class. 1202 with her is also an amazing class because it combines grammar and literature. Luckily for you she is incredible at both! So basically the point of this review is to say that you are crazy if you don't try to take a class with this professor because she is THE BEST.

Dec 2010

Prof. Holst-Knudson is amazing! She really helped me improve my French, making me feel very comfortable going into Advanced Grammar and Comp. Although she does have an American accent, she makes sure to pronounce everything very clearly and accurately. She's a fair grader, and although there is a lot of homework, it's not busy work. She lets you know what to expect, and is passionate about the class. (especially the lit component) She cares about her students, which is definately a plus. She's one of the best professors I've had here! (Why doesn't she have a gold star??!?) Also, she's probably the fastest grader I've ever seen! It's not uncommon to take a quiz and see the grade by the time you get back to your room. I would definately highly recommend her. She's the best!

Aug 2009

I agree with the other comments, including the one about her american accent, but I'd add a few points. First, the class itself is about learning grammar/usage to improve your reading and writing. It can seem tedious when you're wading through the details, and there's basically no reason to take this class unless you want to speak French at a high level one day. After the semester ended though, I realized most of what we learned was actually pretty basic and my french had improved tremendously. As for Heidi, she's a virtuoso in the classroom, unfailingly poised and engaging. She's also cool and aloof, I don't remember a spontaneous emotion all semester. I was annoyed by the performative aspect of her teaching, but I guess that's just her style. As others have said, Heidi is great at explaining grammar rules and gives some of the most detailed corrections to papers I've seen. She also posts loads of extra reading material and worksheets online, in case you want extra practice. You read a lot of literature in this class and Heidi goes even deeper by encouraging close readings and giving time to large scale themes. This made the essays more bearable and helped class discussion along, but as the semester wore on I started to feel we were spending too much time and attention on unnecessary abstractions. I love French literature but I don't think anyone benefited from the tortuous interpretations she dragged us through in the last part of the course, which I suspect had more to do with her ego than with us learning anything. Grousing aside, Heidi is the best French instructor I've had outside of France. I didn't like her as a person and still thought she was a very good teacher, that says a lot.

May 2009

I went into this course thinking that it could be a painfully dull review of the grammar that i have struggled with ever since i started learning french. however, it turned out to be more of a lit class and was very enjoyable. professor knudsen stresses learning more than grades and is very approachable as well as intelligent.

Jan 2009

Best French teacher I ever had. Encyclopedic knowledge of the language's rules, instant recall of grammatical rules, current events, is connected to the french culture, and I hear she even does translations of french books. Very, very fair, allows corrections and amends grades w/ them. Very attentive, makes sure each student understands the who, what and whys. To top it all off, one of the most infectious and energizingly positive attitudes I've ever encountered.

Jan 2009

She's really a great teacher. She's super prepared for classes and has a lot of assignments to give you. I took French for 7 years in high school and middle school, and I feel like I learned more in one semester with her than I did in all those years.

Nov 2006

heidi is eye candy. but has a brain, too. she knows her stuff, teaches it well, and conducts the class enjoyably. a nice woman, i definitely recommend her.

Jan 2006

This course has the potential to be deadly because it involves a lot of annoying grammar rules and writing real essays in french. However, it turned out that we read real literature and my french writing definitly improved. Heidi is a wonderful teacher as well as incredibly nice, understanding, and energetic. She is one of those rare teachers who actually focuses on whether or not her students learn, rather than grades. She encourages in-depth discussions of the texts that involve the whole class and makes sure everyone really understands, even if it means changing the syllabus to spend more time on a particular topic. If you have the chance, definitly take a class with her.

Jan 2006

Being a bit snobbish I was at first turned-off by her American accent. However, it was impossible not to transcend this minor qualm. Each week we would have a discussion about a particular film watched in class. Discussions forced participants to compose in French abstract conceptions about camera work and cinematic symbolism. This is quite an exceptional challenge for an intermediate conversation course. Heidi is extremely well-read and our conversations became sufficiently complex to merit this a great class. Many people take this course to get an easy 2 points, and Heidi's only flaw was allowing these people to remain in the class for the full term; their lack of interest debased a fine course with a wonderfully brilliant teacher.

Jan 2006

Heidi is a wonderful teacher. She spends a lot of time reviewing your writing and telling you exactly what it is that could make it better, and also if a point of question comes up in class always makes a point to go over it or find out the answer after class and e-mail it. She is fair about grading, about re-testing, and work. The class itself is a good class for those who are interested in french; some classes can be pretty boring as they are only reviewing grammar worksheets or talking about books (which is difficult to stay awake for if you haven't read the books; but most of the readings are worth doing if you enjoy french). This is a great class if you care about improving your French; Heidi definitely helps with that a lot

Feb 2004

Heidi is an outstanding teacher who puts 110% into her work. She is an enthusiastic and highly approachable teacher. She is always willing to give extra help outside of class, which she encourages frequently. She teaches with clarity, focus, and grace. The workload she assigned in class was well-geared for the abilities of the students in the class who had never taken french before. She is such a very warm, friendly person and rarely isn't smiling. There is not one negative thing anyone could say about Heidi.

Dec 2003

Heidi is a fabulous teacher. She seems to genuinely care about her class... if someone had a problem with the material, she told them to meet with her afterwards. Very understanding as far as paper/test-taking extensions and she seems very willing to accomodate. She's probably one of the best teachers for a no-brainer class there could be.