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White guy from Canada becomes Cantonese teaching sensation

Posted: 07/17/2011 11:26 am

Carlos teaching Guangdungwah

Carlos Vidal (aka Carlos Douh) is a white kid from Vancouver, Canada with zero Chinese heritage (his mother is Caucasian Canadian, his dad is Peruvian). That hasn’t stopped him from diving into Cantonese, however, a language that the US State Department considers one of the toughest in the world to learn.

Carols has been running a series of Cantonese language lessons on Youtube (VPN will be needed) which has caught the attention of media in both Canada and Hong Kong. Native Cantonese-speakers say he’s nailed Cantonese in the way Da Shan has nailed Putonghua, especially when he’s imitating high-maintenance “Kong girls” (港女).

The Globe and Mail talked to Carlos about his new-found Internet fame:

“Some Caucasian guy speaking a completely foreign language” is how Mr. Vidal, 25, explains the appeal of his cheeky videos. “I don’t [intend] it as a serious way to learn Chinese – just learn some trendy words, have some fun and make friends laugh.”

And although his video antics often involve exaggerated characterizations, he says they aren’t meant to offend. “There is a line between being offensively racist or rude toward a culture, and being able to laugh together about funny aspects within that culture.”

Carlos’ real achievement is learning Cantonese in only two years while not living in a Cantonese-speaking environment (although Vancouver could be considered pretty close to being one).

Mr. Vidal learned Cantonese relatively recently: In 2005, he travelled to Hong Kong as part of a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. For the next two years, he immersed himself in the Cantonese dialect using books and audio tapes.

“I would try to study for an hour or so every day; just try to memorize vocabulary,” he says. “When I was on the bus, or asked for directions, or buying food, I would always practise my Chinese.”

His proficiency has impressed Chinese speakers, including Duanduan Li, director of the Chinese language program at the University of British Columbia. Chinese is a notoriously difficult language to learn because every sound has a specific tone, Prof. Li says. “And even the same sound has so many different tones.

Some of his videos are hilarious, and others offer insight into Cantonese culture, specifically in Hong Kong.

You can read the Globe & Mail article here, or follow Carlos Vidal on Youtube, Twitter orFacebook. He’s also appeared on TVB in Hong Kong in English, and of course, Cantonese.


  • Stella

    Awesome! Great bridging work between Hong Kong and Vancouver which share so many things in common across the Pacific.

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