A recent study by The Economist "Competing across borders: how cultural and communication barriers affect business" reveals the importance of languages for businesses. Two-thirds of respondents say that differences in language and culture make it difficult to gain a foothold in unfamiliar markets.
Some 47% say their companies do not offer enough training to hone their employees’ language and communication skills, and 40% believe there is not enough emphasis placed on recruiting or selecting people who are suited to cross-cultural environments. Misunderstandings rooted in cultural differences present the greatest obstacle to productive cross-border collaboration
Interestingly, linguistic diversity – or the lack of it – is considered by some margin to be a greater business challenge in Latin America and southern Europe than elsewhere. For example, 38% of those surveyed in Brazil and 40% in Spain believe the difficulty in communicating in non-native languages to be a significant hindrance to effective cross-border relations.
More information about the full report (.pdf).