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Eva's spirit brings English to Javanese

WAS IT another form of American imperialism? A new way to learn English in an instant? Or maybe just the kretek fumes?

Whatever it was, an Indonesian newspaper yesterday claimed that several workers in an east Java factory suddenly became fluent in English, apparently after being possessed by a wandering American spirit. The first was 19-year-old Lilik, who, after suffering a brief fit, shouted: 'My name is Eva. I come from America. I am looking for my father.'

Production at the Dji Sam Soe plant, which makes the kretek (clove) cigarettes beloved by Indonesians came to a halt as 'Eva' continued to chatter in fluent English. Lilik and her colleagues normally speak only the local dialect. Suryani, another worker, also suffered a fit and began to insist in English that she, too, was called Eva, and was looking for her father.

For two hours the spirit ranged about the factory, possessing some women with the ability to speak English while causing seizures among others. It was not until local shamen were called in that 'Eva' was sent on her way.

The newspaper said Lilik, Suryani and the others were under medical observation, but did not report whether they had retained their new-found linguistic skills. In south-east Asia, where the obsession with self-improvement has made the teaching of English big business, there are a lot of people who would like to know.