Xiaodan Wang

This professor has earned a CULPA gold nugget

Jan 2018

She's simply the best. Extremely kind and understanding of the difficulties of learning Chinese as a non-native speaker. She is so experienced that she often knows the questions we will ask before we can even struggle to speak them. She includes all students (even in an immensely large class), making an effort to call on all of us. Wang Laoshi is so lovely and I just adore the crap out of her. I recommend her over other Chinese professors (who are all excellent teachers and very driven despite--or maybe because of--their many many many years at Columbia teaching the same course multiple times a week) because of her generosity and empathy. She has absolutely earned her gold nugget!

Jan 2015

Man, was this class an experience. Let me start by saying Wang Laoshi is an absolutely excellent teacher. She might just be one of the best Chinese professors in the nation. She has a very, very good understanding of what students are likely to have trouble with and she focuses her lectures more around those things, which makes going to lecture really valuable (it's also mandatory, and 4 days a week, which can get annoying but it is what it is). However, this does necessitate that you do a lot of work outside of class. You need to do a LOT of work outside of class. There are quizzes basically 3 times a week (remember, there are 4 days of class a week). In themselves, they're quite short (typically 5 vocab words and a sentence), but the list you need to study from is usually around 30 words long. The days we don't have a quiz, we either have homework due, an essay due, or a test. The workload is quite intense, but it is, after all, a 5 point class. And when you do it all, you really feel like you have an understanding of the language. There is about 1 day a semester when all the stars align, and you have nothing due - no quiz, no homework, no essay, no test. Take the day off. It will not happen again. Tests in this course are not terribly difficult, studying the grammar structures worksheet that she gives out in class usually allows you to get at least an 85. Homework is also pretty easy and not too time-consuming. Essays are very time consuming, and she expects more of a five-paragraph type format (which is something she doesn't really expound on in class), which means they're graded a bit tougher. All things considered though, it's not the difficulty of the work that can get you; it's more the volume. Oh yeah, you're also required to go to a drill session once a week to practice your speaking with a TA and a few other students. Pretty standard fare. I think I would have drowned in all the work had I taken this course with anyone else, but taking it with Wang Laoshi allowed me to live through the experience and come out with a way better knowledge of the Chinese language to boot. I can't stress enough how good of a professor Wang Laoshi is - a lot of this review is complaining about all the coursework, but her expertise and niceness and perfection as a professor makes the experience wholly worth it.

Dec 2014

The few reviews provided below are a bit outdated so I will update with my experience of taking Prof. Wang for the first semester of Chinese (course for non-native speakers). Prof. Wang is incredibly nice, she is always in a good mood. That being said, it seems this statement is true of just about all of the Chinese professors at Columbia. Since I don't want to only repeat the praise of other reviewers, I will offer some negatives from my experience. She doesn't have regularly scheduled office hours. Her system is basically to post on courseworks (usually the night before) when she will be in her office for students to drop by with questions for her. There will be three slots of 15 minutes each, usually on two different days during the week, so about 6 sessions are available per week between her two Chinese classes. Once though she went two solid weeks without posting office hours so I e-mailed her directly asking if I could meet her with some questions. She never responded to my e-mail but about an hour later she made office hours available for a couple of hours straight on Friday of that week and then went another week or so without holding office hours. Also, there were a number of times during the semester when you could tell she did not understand what the student was asking due to her lack of total fluency in English and a couple of times straight up said that she couldn't understand what the student meant by the question. Let me be clear, this is not a big enough issue to in any way significantly interfere with the learning experience overall, but it did happen. Also, she would often come in either right on time or just past the start time for the course and THEN start to write things on the board. At a place like Columbia, as expensive as it is, I feel like the least a language instructor can do is start teaching at the appointed time. Every minute is crucial in a class that meets 4 times a week and at the end of the semester even one minute off of learning per class will add up to the equivalent of missing an entire class. Why am I listing these complaints about a teacher who is overall very good and someone I would not discourage anyone from taking a class with? Because I want to impress on anyone reading this that at Columbia ALL of the teachers are excellent and will help you learn Chinese. The best thing you can do is enroll in the Chinese course with the fewest number of students that also fits your schedule, and preferably a teacher with regular office hours. Some teachers have office hours every day for an hour and there was one Chinese class this semester that had just 3 students in it. The more individual attention you can get from the instructor and the more you are forced to speak, the more you will improve. Best of luck!!

May 2011

Professor Wang is quite simply awesome, as all of the other reviews state. I was in her Elementary, not Intermediate, class these past couple of semesters, and she helped me through my initial difficulties with the language rather readily. Always smiling, lighthearted, and understanding, Professor Wang makes an extremely intimidating foreign language seem fun and natural. You will look forward to this class everyday if you take it. If she isn't Gold Nugget quality I'm not sure what is.

Jan 2011

I absolutely agree with the review below. Wang Laoshi is too phenomenal a professor to only have one review written about her. I have never bothered writing one for any of my professors but I will have to make an exception here. I will try to write an unbiased review void of the massive crush I have on her. One of the most striking qualities of her classes is how fun they are while still remaining fairly structured. I've taken several years of summer classes in the past and most of them have been just reciting sentences that are far too predictable. None of the material ever sticks because you are stuck repeating the same words the teacher says. Wang Laoshi's class structure encourages you to play around with the language and allows you to develop a more advanced understanding. She's also just a really sweet teacher that will make classes extremely enjoyable and discourages you from disappointing her. Having to tell her you didn't do your homework is the emotional equivalence of being forced to bunch a small puppy. True story. The only downside is perhaps the size of the class. Personally, I'm a fan of smaller classes for language courses but I guess because of the high demand for her, she accepted 15+ kids this semester, which inevitably leads to less class time participation. That said, her office hours are always available and she is a delight to talk to.

Dec 2010

I am absolutely shocked that nobody has written a review of 王老师. She's phenomenal: demanding but not cruel, encouraging without coddling. I've had a different Chinese teacher every semester and came into this class to discover that 王老师 has a set of groupies who build their schedules around her class every semester. This should tell you something. I'm certainly disappointed to be leaving---my Chinese has gotten significantly better this semester and I give her most of the credit for that. I only wish my schedule let me stay another semester.