I have to transcribe a German male's name into another language.

His name is written 'René', as in 'René Descartes', except it's a German first name.

My German knowledge is very shallow, so I'd like to ask you about the most idiomatic way of pronouncing the name spelled as above in German, preferably in IPA symbols, please.

For what it's worth, I'm not interested in the phonetic values of the consonants, as they clearly correspond to some phonemes in my target language. I'm more interested in knowing the values of the 2 vowels.

I found two webpages on the Internet, which offer recordings of this name by German speakers:



The 2 vowels which follow 'r' and 'n' respectively sound distinct to my ears in the 2 recordings on the Forvo page. On the second webpage, however, the 2 vowels sound somewhat similar to me in the first recording, but they sound like 2 distinct phonemes in the second recording from that page.

On another forum, I posted the same question asking if [ʀəne], which is my guess from listening to the recordings from the pages above, is the correct transcription for this name in German, but a native German speaker told me it's incorrect, and the correct version would be [ʀe:'ne:].

In his correction, the 2 vowels are identical, but this is not what I hear from some of the recordings, so I wonder if they are allophones...

So can someone confirm his correction, and hopefully explain why the 2 vowels sound different to my ears?


  • 7
    Forget the second site! It is not real pronounciation but computer-generated. And it is not "René" which is "pronounced" there but "rene".
    – Eller
    Commented Jul 26, 2017 at 11:33
  • 2
    Voting to close this for primarily opinion-based - There are two "legal" ways to pronounce this - original French or Germanized - and the choice between them is pure opinion (either that of the speaker or that of the guy who holds the name)
    – tofro
    Commented Jul 27, 2017 at 7:30

5 Answers 5


My first name is René. I call myself [ʁe:ˈne:] and most people default to this pronunciation even when they never spoke to me. Using the French pronunciation makes you sound smug. It's not commonly used in German. Don't use the French pronunciation unless the person is French / comes from a Francophone country.

As always with such questions: In the end it only matters how the person calls himself. Use his preferred pronunciation. (In my school time some French language teacher insisted my name was [ʁœˈne:]. As you may have guessed, I did not like him very much …)

  • 3
    @IQV: I disagree with you completely and agree with kay that people who pronounce names, or words in general, in their native pronunciation while speaking another language sound smug. Related: youtube.com/watch?v=fKGoVefhtMQ Commented Jul 26, 2017 at 12:55
  • @IQV: Experiences seem to differ. I assume, that the only people, was not intended as condescending and know pretty many Germans, which pronounce e.g. software quite different from a native speaker despite knowing English.
    – guidot
    Commented Jul 26, 2017 at 13:14
  • 3
    After all, it's your name, and you decide how to pronounce it - So to the OP: why not simply ask the person you address?
    – tofro
    Commented Jul 26, 2017 at 13:27
  • 8
    The “smugness” is definitely subjective, and quite possible depending on the location. People I know in Berlin use something exceedingly close to the French pronunciation, and they’re not the kind usually accused of being smug, or francophile. In fact, they know no French Commented Jul 26, 2017 at 14:30
  • 2
    @KonradRudolph I'm Austrian and I would usually pronounce it something like /ʁ​ɛ​ˈne:/, not /ʁ​e:ˈne:/, which would sound quite cumbersome to me, what with two long vowels and all. My form would be pronounced as /ʁ​əˈne:/ in Germany, where you actually do Schwas, which is of course exactly the way that French would pronounce it.
    – sgf
    Commented Jul 26, 2017 at 22:04

Multiple pronunciations are possible (at least 4, but I'm bad at phonetics so I can't list them), and the likelihood of each depends on where in Germany (or Austria/Lichtenstein/Switzerland) the person is from. In general, [ʀe:'ne:] seems more likely, but it isn't guaranteed.


Addendum to other answers:

The letter é is not part of German language. You find it only in foreign words like *Café« or Séparée. For this reason the french name »René« very often is spelled »Rene« (e instead of é).

In Austria, mainly in Vienna, this name (»Rene«, without Accent aigu) sometimes is pronounced as


i.e. identical to the imperative singular of the verb rennen: Renne!

This is a quite strange pronunciation, and here is the story of how it came about:

Between 1975 and 1979 Austrian Television (ORF) produced the series »Ein echter Wiener geht nicht unter«. The setting is a typical working class family from the suburbs of Vienna, and the main character is Edmund Sackbauer. In Episode 14 (»Der Enkel«) Edmund becomes a grandfather, and his newborn Grandson was called »Rene Sackbauer«. While the parents, and most other family members pronounced the little boys name [ʁe:ˈne:] (i.e. as usual), Edmund Sackbauer always said [ˈʁɛnə], and after a while (some episodes later) almost everybody used Edmunds pronunciation.

You can listen to this pronunciation in the episode »Der Enkel«, for example at the beginning, at about 1:50. Attention: You will hear authentic Viennese working-class dialect full of swear words. The scene, beginning at about 1:25: Edmund Sackbauer (who is a choleric Character) wanted his grandson to be named after himself, i.e. »Edmund«. But the boys parents decided to give him the name »Rene«. When Edmund heard his grandsons name, he became very upset and is shouting his relatives idiots.

I think, that the pronunciation [ˈʁɛnə] was first used in this series. But since this series was so popular in Austria, this pronunciation was used since then also in real life.

  • In case my first name was Rene, I wouldn't accept a TV serial to decide how it was to be pronounced...
    – tofro
    Commented Jul 26, 2017 at 21:07

In German speaking Switzerland, the name would always be stressed on the first vowel, which would be pronounced as [ə]. Most Swiss Germans roll their r's in some form, while a minority would go for the French "r", so the most common pronunciations you'd encounter would be ['ʀəne:] and ['ʁəne:]


I frequently make use of the Russian translator (translate.Yandex.ru) listen closely to repeated pronunciations of German words that I have found difficult to pronounce. After repeated pronunciations of the query word René, what I hear (spoken quickly) seems to be closer to [reh-'nay] than to [ren-'ehh].

In both cases the standard pronunciation of the German character 'é' is what seems to my ear to be only slightly different. And in both cases the first 'e' is short and the second 'é' is only a bit longer.

The French pronunciation of René is, of course, quite distinctly different from the German pronunciation of the word.

To hear the query word pronounced in Yandex, the Russian word for 'German' in the translator's input/output windows is "NEMEЦКИЙ", and the Russian word for 'French' is "фРАНЦУЗCКИЙ".


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.