In my school days, I remember someone mentioning that a fellow clashttp://www2.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifsmate was studying Manchu (along with a number of other languages) on his own. These kind of language freaks, for whom learning Chinese isn't enough and so they move on to Mongolian or Tibetan or some other minority languages, were not altogether uncommon at my university considering its relatively strong languages program. Despite being part Manchu, I've never studied (nor ever thought about studying) Manchu. According to wikipedia, out of the 10 million ethnic Manchus, less than 70 can speak Manchu.
For whatever reason, this week the New York Times decided to take notice of this fact and came out with not 1, but 2 articles on the Manchu language. I can see it now, when the writer http://www2.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifproposed the article, the editors thought a paid trip up to the middle of nowhere for one article wasn't enough, so the writer put together 2 stories. The stories are "Chinese Village Struggles to Save Dying Language" and "Manchu Language Lives Mostly in Archives." Hmm...What do these articles tell you? It seems that if you are fluent (or close to it) in Chinese and also have a solid grasp of the Manchu written language, you certainly have a longterm job prospect (though don't think the pay would be very good). Granite Studio does a good writeup on the articles (suprisingly one of the few in the China blogsphere who took note of them), but, possibly because I'm less of a romantic, I don't exactly feel sad about the disappearance of the language. Of course, there is a side of me that wants to go out (or at least go on amazon) and buy THE book to study Manchu, but amongst the other Manchu people I know (and in my own thinking), the idea that the language is eventually going to disappear is a foregone conclusion and doesn't make them any less proud in their own identity.