Mormon wins fans with humorous take on Cantonese slang

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 10 April, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 10 April, 2011, 12:00am


A Canadian Mormon who spent two years in Hong Kong in his teens has become so popular on YouTube with his comedic take on Cantonese slang that Cathay Pacific has bankrolled his flight to the city.

Carlos Vidal (pictured), 25, lives in Vancouver and arrives in Hong Kong tomorrow as one of eight finalists in a travel competition run by the airline.

His claim to fame is the two dozen videos he made at home under his stage name, Carlos Douh, the surname being the pinyin of a Chinese surname, To, that his Cantonese teacher gave him seven years ago.

His most popular video has had 800,000 views and describes the phrase gung jyuh behng, or princess sickness, which refers to young Hong Kong girls who are high-maintenance and behave like princesses.

The next most popular video is for chok yeung, which refers to an exaggerated, model-like pose in a photo, similar to the 'blue steel' phrase from US film Zoolander.

'Everybody likes that one because it's pretty in right now. It was pretty popular in December and January, too,' Vidal said.

In just three months, he's attracted 2.8 million views of his videos and almost 22,000 subscribers to his YouTube channel. He's even selling T-shirts with a trademark phrase. 'I don't feel like a celebrity but everyone keeps saying that I am,' he said.

Last week, he was made a YouTube partner, which means he is starting to cash in on his celebrity status. But it's only small fry, for now. He makes a profit every time someone views a video and watches the preview advertisement.

'It's not very much yet. In one week, I put up one video and it got about 20,000 views and made about US$70,' he said.

Vidal's love for the Cantonese language started when he lived in Hong Kong from 2004 for two years doing voluntary missionary work with his church.

'It slowly progressed over time and I was able to get the hang of it. My Chinese is still far from sounding exactly like a native. It's a really complex language and there's lots to learn, but it's fun to be able to communicate with people now. I feel like I understand and have learned a lot more about the people and the culture through their own language.'

His girlfriend also helps with his language skills. 'She's originally from Hong Kong and her native language is Cantonese so we speak mostly Cantonese together,' he said.

Now in his final year of a business degree in Canada, Vidal said he found his YouTube niche by accident after he started making videos teaching people how to speak Cantonese last October.

'Instead of teaching regular, everyday words which wouldn't get that many views, I started doing slang words and people just thought it was really funny.

'American-born Chinese teenagers and college-age students were watching and learning new slang. So it just kind of picked up from there.

'There's tonnes of different slang words but I think, 'How can I make this one funny and creative in a video?' So I pick the ones that I have ideas for. Fans now are also suggesting things.'

But don't expect any swear words, despite profanity being central to Cantonese slang: 'That's just not my style,' he said.

Of his 22,000 fans, 8,000 are Hongkongers, followed by 6,000 Americans, 4,000 Canadians and 1,000 each in Britain and Australia. Most are aged between 13 and 24.