Cultural influences

ALPENA – Two very different young men from different backgrounds have been learning from each other during free tutoring sessions at the Alpena County Library for the past few weeks, and have learned that even though they come from different areas of the world, they have many things in common.

Patrick Heraghty, a 13-year-old Alpena resident, and Omer Baris Kavas, a 15-year-old from Bursa, Turkey, have been practicing English for the past few weeks to help Kavas while he is in Alpena visiting family members. The two play games, use flash cards, read books and share in conversation at the library twice a week and learn about the many differences and similarities they share.

“A lot of what we do is just having someone to talk to,” Heraghty said. “It’s good to have someone you can ask questions with.”

The two were paired up with some help from Heraghty’s mom, who is on the library board, and Dottie Haase, co-coordinator at the Alpena County Library.

“They were looking for someone for Baris to talk to that was his own age,” Heraghty said. “I thought it was going to be a lot different than it really is. Meeting someone new is always great, and I’d like to continue to teach and help others. I’m learning a lot about Turkey, too.”

Kavas feels the same about how well the tutoring sessions have been going.

“My English is good, and my aunt says it’s good to speak English and have friends,” Kavas said. “This is my third time here. I came here in 2006, 2009 and 2013. This was my first time reading an English book and going to the library carnival. I want to come back next year.”

Through their time together, Heraghty has learned a lot about Turkish money, history and some of the things kids his age do for fun in Turkey.

“We’re learning a lot from each other,” Heraghty said. “I’ve learned how different, but similar we are. We both like to play Mario, read and watch sports. Even though we’re so different, we’re still kind of the same.”

Kavas has a translator application on his iPad that he carries with him at all times to help, but rarely uses it. If the two have trouble understanding something, they work it out by approaching it a different way.

“In Turkey we use British English because our books came from England. It is Oxford English, so things here in America are different,” Kavas said. “I take six lessons a week in school for English.”

Kavas’ hometown of Bursa is the fourth largest city in Turkey with a population of around 2.5 million people living in and around it, according to the city’s tourism portal.

“The silence here is very good for me,” Kavas said. “Here you can use your bike to go everywhere. In Bursa you can’t because of too many cars. In Bursa I always hear helicopters and cars and ambulance and police.”

Kavas has plans to come back to Alpena next year in the summer while he is on vacation from school, and both young men plan to keep in touch via the Internet when Kavas returns to Turkey at the end of August.

Nicole Grulke can be reached via email at or by phone at 358-5687. Follow Nicole on Twitter @ng_alpenanews.