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The basis of the romance language of Spanish is that there are feminine and masculine words. These articles are either el/la depending on the word.

My question is, in spoken Spanish, how important is to correctly say el/la?

I am deciding whether to go on a trip to a Spanish speaking country to practice speaking and to become more fluent. When talking with native speakers, I am wondering how wrong or off it would sound to say a sentence like this:

(with incorrect articles)

Yo tengo un herida grande, necesito unas puntos.

Would native speakers still understand what I am trying to say if some or say most of the usage of el/la is incorrect?

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Most people will understand what you are trying to say under most circumstances. However, gender is Spanish is important if fluency is your goal. Here are some reasons:

  1. Frequently using the wrong gender will make you sound uneducated in the Spanish language. If you plan on speaking Spanish often in the future, you will want to learn the articles as soon as possible.
  2. Some words change meaning with gender. For example, el cura is a priest, but la cura is a cure. If you were to mistake these, it would confuse the listener.
  3. Sometimes the articles are essential to the meaning of a sentence. For example, consider the sentence "La poeta y su libro, el cual no tiene nombre, tuvieron mucho éxito". If instead of el cual (referring to the book) I had said la cual (which refers to the poet), the sentence would have a different meaning, and would make less sense.

So, most of the time you will be understood, but using the wrong article can cause confusion in certain cases and may prevent you from being understood. If possible, learn the correct article usage before your trip. If you can't, don't let that keep you from going on the trip. The best way to learn Spanish is to visit a country where it is spoken and use the language as much as possible.

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  • la cura is a cure +1 – jasilva May 11 '17 at 22:21
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Native speakers will understand you in almost every case, but also will realize without doubt you are not a native speaker.

Though correct gender marking may not always be essential to meaningful communication, its ubiquitous presence in Romance languages makes errors particularly salient to native speakers, even to the point of irritation" (Latorre 1991)

Latorre, Guillermo. 1991. Some empirical data on Spanish gender acquisition by intermediate students. Taller de Letras 19.77-86.

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Native speakers still understand what you are trying to say, but it sounds terrible! It sounds so terrible that almost any speaker would help by telling you the right gender. That's good news because you'll learn the gender of every word.

(*) On the other hand, most of native Spanish speakers are aware about how English speakers find difficult to conjugate the Spanish verbs. That means you'll feel more tolerance about mistakes related to verb conjugation than gender.

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