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I'm using wanikani, and I'm confused by this question I keep getting wrong. The app is showing me ふじ山 and asking for "Vocabulary Reading". At this point I always type ふじやま but the correct answer by wanikani is ふじさん. What is vocabulary reading? What is さん and what is やま other than they both mean mountain? Which ending sound do people use in which contexts?

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    When you say "what is vocabulary reading" you are asking a question specifically about how WaniKani works, so it would be better asked on their forum. Though people generally can answer questions about what the mountain should be called in Japanese. – Leebo Dec 30 '20 at 1:51
  • I assumed "vocabulary reading" is a thing in Japanese. If it's a wanikani specific thing, I'll follow up there. Thank you. – ubershmekel Dec 30 '20 at 1:52
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    When WaniKani shows "vocabulary reading" it just means "this is a vocabulary item (as opposed to kanji or radical items), please answer with the reading (as opposed to the meaning)". Presumably you saw that the word 山 is pronounced やま, and assumed that "vocabulary reading" meant that it should always be read やま when it appears in vocabulary (which would include ふじ山). But that's not what is intended by it. – Leebo Dec 31 '20 at 6:18
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I don't know about "vocabulary reading". Please ask about it elsewhere.

Anyway, the highest mountain in Japan is normally called ふじさん in Japanese. Fujiyama is more of a nickname used mainly outside Japan. From Wikipedia:

Mount Fuji

In English, the mountain is known as Mount Fuji. Some sources refer to it as "Fuji-san", "Fujiyama" or, redundantly, "Mt. Fujiyama". Japanese speakers refer to the mountain as "Fuji-san". This "san" is not the honorific suffix used with people's names, such as Watanabe-san, but the Sino-Japanese reading of the character yama (山, "mountain") used in Sino-Japanese compounds.

Occasionally, Japanese people intentionally use the reading of ふじやま to add an "exotic" or "foreign" flavor. Many "gaijin" characters in anime often say Fujiyama with a foreign accent. And there is a roller coaster called FUJIYAMA near Mount Fuji.

Fujiyama (roller coaster)

Fujiyama is a steel roller coaster at Fuji-Q Highland, Fujiyoshida, Yamanashi, Japan.

Fujiyama is named after the iconic Mount Fuji, which stands to the west of Tokyo. The term Fujiyama comes from "fuji", and "yama" which means mountain. Mount Fuji is seldom referred to as "Fujiyama" in Japanese culture, but is instead more commonly referred to as "Fujisan", using the on'yomi pronunciation of the "mountain" character. The roller coaster Fujiyama is named as a play on the common foreign mistransliteration.

(Trivia: there are actually some little-known mountains whose formal name is ふじやま. For example, this.)

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  • If I understand correctly from you, Leebo and en.wiktionary.org/wiki/%E5%B1%B1#Japanese - 山 the character can be read as "yama" and as "san". Specifically the famous mountain's name is "fujisan" in Japanese. In other cases 山 might be either "yama" or "san" and I might need to find a source for figuring when to use which. Thank you. – ubershmekel Jan 1 at 6:34
  • @ubershmekel Unfortunately it's arbitrary. In general, さん tends to follow on-yomi mountain names and やま tends to follow kun-yomi mountain names. – naruto Jan 1 at 9:17

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