We think of Burma as a country of great linguistic and ethnic diversity. The government today classifies the population into 135 ‘national races’, most of which they place under eight larger overarching categories. The Ethnologue website, which provides information about languages across the globe, says that there are 117 living languages in the country. This discrepancy points to both differences in classification schemes, but also perhaps highlights an expectation—common at least in the English-speaking world—that language and ethnicity should be nearly co-equal. Since the colonial era, indigenous ways of making sense of identity and community, which may or may not have been based on language, have been overtaken by a practice that the British introduced: equating language first with race, and later, as the idea of race evolved, with ethnic group.