I know that pronunciation in English is not very consistent, but I heard rendezvous being pronounced like
who, which felt very strange. Is this really the right way to pronounce it, and how did it turn out like this?
Both Modern French and Modern English got the word rendezvous from Middle French. It's been an English word for about four hundred and twenty years!
So simply saying it's a French word and we should mimic the modern French pronunciation is disingenuous.
English spelling is quirkier than its pronunciation. We've pretty much retained the French spelling (merely dropping the hyphen) but the pronunciation is quite different. French "r" is very different to any of the ways "r" is pronounced in English. French has nazalised vowels (the first "e" is one) but English does not.
(In fact it's quite possible that even the French meanings and pronunciation have drifted a little in the four centuries since English adopted this word.)
Both the Middle French and Modern French pronunciations are out of scope for this site for English learners. (They would be relevant in a forum, or in a linguistics site.)
The only pronunciation I know is like "ron-day-voo". Different dictionaries would render it different ways. The English Wiktionary currently uses:
/ˈɹɑndeɪ̯ˌvu/for American English and
/'ɹɒndeɪ̯ˌvuː/for British English.
Without the IPA these would be like
ron-dee-voo. These suggest that the second "e" can also be reduced like the "e" in chicken. But I'm not familiar with these pronunciations. These are both farther from the French pronunciation and perhaps a little closer to
Anyway, I would render the pronunciation I know in IPA this way:
ɒ is the vowel in
hot. In most American English accents this is usually affected by the "cot-caught merger" and is rendered
ɑ in IPA.)
Rendez-vous is the French word for “appointment” (date, gathering). Its English pronunciation is very much alike how the French pronounce it :
- (The [r] is a lost cause.)
- The [en] is that of wand, more or less.
- The [dez] is the [de] of decorate, only slightly more acute. (In fact, [ez] is é in French, but English only knows of the French è. It's close enough, really.)
- The [v] is that of view.
- The [ou] is like the English oo (fool). The s is silent.
¹ Or run, or ran, even ren.
No, it is pronounced /ˈɹɑndeɪ̯ˌvu/ (ron-day-voo). Rendezvous comes from the French rendez-vous, meaning a meeting or appointment, and its pronunciation was very much influenced by French pronunciation.
Rendezvous is a borrowing from French and still carries with it a French pronunciation, modified to fit available English sounds:
ˈrɑndeɪˌvu (like ron-day-voo).
Well! It's really very difficult for an American (all English speaking persons, in general—but not only for those) to pronounce "rendez-vous" (not "rendezvous"). The same difficulties that all peoples other than those of English mother tongue generally find in pronouncing English (US or GB).
Why is the pronunciation of "rendez-vous" so difficult? First of all:
the French (like the Germans) have a very special way of "rolling" the letter "r". You will find it very difficult if you have not learned to do so as a child. See Language Guide—French Pronunciation: Consonants.
Also: learning the the French nasal sound is, unquestionably, a difficult task. If you wish to exercise, please go to Language Guide—French Pronunciation: Nasal Vowels.
To resume: Do you really wish to pronounce "rendez-vous" like a real French person does? Or you could be satisfied just by pronouncing it in a decent way? In my opinion the second option would be all right for you, especially because your listener would laugh at you!
This is a sufficiently fine pronunciation for you:
run (of run ning) + de (Letter e of demonstrate) + voo (of voo-doo)