professor
Thomas Martin

Apr 2007

Let me start off by saying that I was so excited to start learning French at the beginning of the semester. I am a language person, so I figured it would just be a fun class for me to take (I have already fulfilled my language requirement and decided to take French because I love languages). I was so wrong!!! Thomas is a nice guy with good intentions, but he is a horrible professor!!! He selectively chooses what he wants to teach, and leaves it up to the class to read the textbook and learn everything else on our own. Sometimes when I asked him to go over something, he simply told me to "look it up in the book". When handing back compositions, he simply circled mistakes but did not put the corrections (even if the mistake was on material we had not yet learned) and expected us to know what was wrong. This is impossible at the Elementary 1 level! He also placed very little emphasis on pronunciation, and did not often correct our pronounciation mistakes in class or teach us how to say many of the vocab words in the book. He is often prone to going off on tangents with students who ask too many questions for their own good, even if the material is not relevant to our class or will be learned at higher levels. This is frustrating to those of us who just want to learn what we are supposed to learn at this level. Also, beware if you're a total French beginner. Most of my class had had some exposure to French previous to the class, putting myself and a few others at a disadvantage, and Thomas did not recognize this nor account for it. Overall, the class was very frustrating and time consuming and I do not feel that I learned much French. In comparison with my previous language experiences at Columbia, the class is a joke! I may as well just have bought the textbook and taught myself.

Dec 2006

Thomas Martin is a genial, somewhat Falstavian guy with an extensive background in, and a passion for, all kinds of literature. His good humor, occassional wit, and accentless English effect a much better classroom atmospheric than you'd find in the other sections of 1101. Unfortunately, while Thomas may be the kind of guy that you'd like to make good friends with, he's less interested in putting in an honest effort to teach to his students the rudimentary French outlined in the 1101 syllabus. To his credit, he's a talented and fun pedagogue - the lack of lesson plans hardly detracted from his ability to impart knowledge upon us - but halfway through the year, he seemed to stop caring about the class. The five minutes of French spoken at the beginning of the class gradually descended into literature and kitten discussion time, and we'd cover all the grammatical concepts, but since 1101 put such an absurd emphasis on random (and oftentimes useless) vocabulary, this would leave much of the rest of the sixty minutes open. A downward spiral of disinterest encompassed both teacher and students, which led to amusing class periods, but higher education at a place like Columbia should be more rigorous. And of course, there were still the tests. Doing the readings out of the book was useful, but proved to be an insufficient method to score well on the four midterms, which again valued knowledge of random words over mastery of grammatical material. The final test of the semester, written by Thomas himself, felt like the ultimate betrayal, as he seemed to have spent more time making the test difficult than teaching us to do well on it. The blissfully lazy ethos of the class was subverted into something sadistic, leaving a weird distribution of grades and a smattering of disgruntled students. On the whole, I would recommend against taking introductory French at Columbia, as there's almost no intellectual benefit to doing so, tons of people with (sometimes extensive) high-school experience take 1101 and screw up the curve for us neophytes, and getting a good grade is pretty tough, unless you're one of the aforementioned douchebags with prior experience. The rest of the French department must suffer through the same ridiculous tests that Thomas's students do, but under the unfortunate authority of a native French speaker, who probably also requires his or her students to complete the workbook, which Thomas does not. So if you must take 1101, do take Thomas, but do be forewarned that, in order to excel, you'll have to put in a lot more individual effort to learn the material than he does to teach it.

Dec 2006

While a nice teacher with a good sense of humor, Thomas lacks certain skills that makes his class somewhat of a struggle. The Foreign Language Department, as most departments, requires that the teachers teach the class completly in the language. Thomas taught 80% of my Elementary French class in English. This may seem easy, but once you get to the tests with the oral sections, you struggle. At the beginning of the course, he corrected our mispronounciation of words. However, he fell short in that he stopped doing so after. I found it disconcerting when at the end of the semester, people in my class, myself included, would still pronounce C'est as "Say-T" instead of the correct "Say" (not T sound). My friend, who's in another section, had to correct my pronounciation while we were studying together for a final. On a positive note, Thomas does incoporate fun and engaging activities into his class. Yet, I noticed that once, the class did not enjoy it as much because most people did not understand people's skits. Hence - the lack of Thomas not speaking French 99% of the time. This said, I would not recommend Thomas as an instructor for French I. As I already noted, the class seems easy at first, but once you hit the tests and exams, expect the majority of your time to be taken up by studying Français.

Sep 2006

I just wanted to second the other review. Thomas Martin is a great teacher. You learn a lot, but you do so at a relaxed pace.

May 2006

He's a great teacher with a good sense of humor. As a result, you look forward to going to class. He teaches the material well and strives to make it clear. His manner of teaching is to have you write example sentences of what you have just learned. This is always done with a partner, and the exercise helps you grasp whatever concept your learning. He's also a fairly easy grader.