Contra Project Outputs

Subword Segmentation and a Single Bridge Language Affect Zero-Shot Neural Machine Translation (2020)

Zero-shot neural machine translation is an attractive goal because of the high cost of obtaining data and building translation systems for new translation directions. However, previous papers have reported mixed success in zero-shot translation. It is hard to predict in which settings it will be effective, and what limits performance compared to a fully supervised system.

In this paper, we investigate zero-shot performance of a multilingual EN<->FR,CS,DE,FI system trained on WMT data. We find that zero-shot performance is highly unstable and can vary by more than 6 BLEU between training runs, making it difficult to reliably track improvements. We observe a bias towards copying the source in zero-shot translation, and investigate how the choice of subword segmentation affects this bias. We find that language-specific subword segmentation results in less subword copying at training time, and leads to better zero-shot performance compared to jointly trained segmentation.

A recent trend in multilingual models is to not train on parallel data between all language pairs, but have a single bridge language, e.g. English. We find that this negatively affects zero-shot translation and leads to a failure mode where the model ignores the language tag and instead produces English output in zero-shot directions. We show that this bias towards English can be effectively reduced with even a small amount of parallel data in some of the non-English pairs.

Venue: WMT 2020 | Paper PDF | Paper BibTeX | Talk Recording


Domain Robustness in Neural Machine Translation (2020)

Translating text that diverges from the training domain is a key challenge for machine translation. Domain robustness—the generalization of models to unseen test domains—is low for both statistical (SMT) and neural machine translation (NMT). In this paper, we study the performance of SMT and NMT models on out-of-domain test sets. We find that in unknown domains, SMT and NMT suffer from very different problems: SMT systems are mostly adequate but not fluent, while NMT systems are mostly fluent, but not adequate. For NMT, we identify such hallucinations (translations that are fluent but unrelated to the source) as a key reason for low domain robustness.

To mitigate this problem, we empirically compare methods that are reported to improve adequacy or in-domain robustness in terms of their effectiveness at improving domain robustness. In experiments on German→English OPUS data, and German→Romansh (a low-resource setting) we find that several methods improve domain robustness. While those methods do lead to higher BLEU scores overall, they only slightly increase the adequacy of translations compared to SMT.

Venue: AMTA 2020 | Paper PDF | Paper BibTeX | Github Repo | Talk Recording


Tutorial on Multilingual Neural Machine Translation with Sockeye (2020)

We present one of the first thorough tutorials on multilingual neural machine translation, meaning: we show how to train a single model that can translate any number of language pairs. The tutorial follows a popular approach proposed by Johnson et al (2017). Our aim is to make multilingual NMT models more accessible by demonstrating the simplicity of the method.

Mathias Müller has authored this tutorial.

 Tutorial as HTML | Source code as Markdown


WMT News Translation Task Findings Paper (2019)

This paper presents the results of the premier shared task organized alongside the Conference on Machine Translation (WMT) 2019. Participants were asked to build machine translation systems for any of 18 language pairs, to be evaluated on a test set of news stories. The main metric for this task is human judgment of translation quality. The task was also opened up to additional test suites to probe specific aspects of translation.

Mathias Müller has contributed to organizing the human evaluation of the news translation task and to the findings paper.

Venue: WMT 2019 | Paper PDF | Paper BibTeX


Contrastive Evaluation of Pronoun Translation (2018)

The translation of pronouns presents a special challenge to machine translation to this day, since it often requires context outside the current sentence. Recent work on models that have access to information across sentence boundaries has seen only moderate improvements in terms of automatic evaluation metrics such as BLEU. However, metrics that quantify the overall translation quality are ill-equipped to measure gains from additional context. We argue that a different kind of evaluation is needed to assess how well models translate inter-sentential phenomena such as pronouns.

Our paper therefore presents a test suite of contrastive translations focused specifically on the translation of pronouns. Furthermore, we perform experiments with several context-aware models. We show that, while gains in BLEU are moderate for those systems, they outperform baselines by a large margin in terms of accuracy on our contrastive test set. Our experiments also show the effectiveness of parameter tying for multi-encoder architectures.

Venue: WMT 2018 | Paper PDF | Paper BibTeX | Github Repo


Targeted Evaluation of Self-Attention Architectures (2018)

Recently, non-recurrent architectures (convolutional, self-attentional) have outperformed RNNs in neural machine translation. CNNs and self-attentional networks can connect distant words via shorter network paths than RNNs, and it has been speculated that this improves their ability to model long-range dependencies. However, this theoretical argument has not been tested empirically, nor have alternative explanations for their strong performance been explored in-depth.

We hypothesize that the strong performance of CNNs and self-attentional networks could also be due to their ability to extract semantic features from the source text, and we evaluate RNNs, CNNs and self-attention networks on two tasks: subject-verb agreement (where capturing long-range dependencies is required) and word sense disambiguation (where semantic feature extraction is required). Our experimental results show that: 1)  self-attentional networks and CNNs do not outperform RNNs in modeling subject-verb agreement over long distances; 2) self-attentional networks perform distinctly better than RNNs and CNNs on word sense disambiguation.

The main author of this paper is our collaborator Gongbo Tang (Uppsala University).

Venue: EMNLP 2018 | Paper PDF | Paper BibTeX


Additional Test Suite for WMT News Translation Task (2018)

We present a task to measure an MT system's capability to translate ambiguous words with their correct sense according to the given context. The task is based on the German-English Word Sense Disambiguation (WSD) test set ContraWSD (Rios et al., 2017), but it has been filtered to reduce noise, and the evaluation has been adapted to assess MT output directly rather than scoring existing translations.

We evaluate all German--English submissions to the WMT 2018 shared translation task, plus a number of submissions from previous years, and find that performance on the task has markedly improved compared to the 2016 WMT submissions (from 81% to 93% accuracy on the WSD task). We also find that the unsupervised submissions to the task have a low WSD capability, and predominantly translate ambiguous source words with the same sense.

Venue: WMT 2018 | Paper PDF | Paper BibTeX


A Convenience Wrapper for Moses and Nematus Systems (2018)

We present mtrain, a convenience tool for machine translation. It wraps existing machine translation libraries and scripts to ease their use. mtrain is written purely in Python 3, well-documented, and freely available.

This work initiated by Samuel Läubli, then continued by Mathias Müller and Beat Horat.

Venue: EAMT 2018 | Paper PDF | Github Repo


Context-aware Neural Machine Translation Learns Anaphora Resolution (2018)

Standard machine translation systems process sentences in isolation and hence ignore extra-sentential information, even though extended context can both prevent mistakes in ambiguous cases and improve translation coherence. We introduce a context-aware neural machine translation model designed in such way that the flow of information from the extended context to the translation model can be controlled and analyzed.

We experiment with an English-Russian subtitles dataset, and observe that much of what is captured by our model deals with improving pronoun translation. We measure correspondences between induced attention distributions and coreference relations and observe that the model implicitly captures anaphora. It is consistent with gains for sentences where pronouns need to be gendered in translation. Beside improvements in anaphoric cases, the model also improves in overall BLEU, both over its context-agnostic version (+0.7) and over simple concatenation of the context and source sentences (+0.6).

Rico Sennrich contributed to this work.

Venue: NAACL 2018 | Paper PDF | Paper BibTeX


Evaluating Discourse Phenomena in Neural Machine Translation (2018)

For machine translation to tackle discourse phenomena, models must have access to extra-sentential linguistic context. There has been recent interest in modelling context in neural machine translation (NMT), but models have been principally evaluated with standard automatic metrics, poorly adapted to evaluating discourse phenomena. In this article, we present hand-crafted, discourse test sets, designed to test the models' ability to exploit previous source and target sentences.

We investigate the performance of recently proposed multi-encoder NMT models trained on subtitles for English to French. We also explore a novel way of exploiting context from the previous sentence. Despite gains using BLEU, multi-encoder models give limited improvement in the handling of discourse phenomena: 50% accuracy on our coreference test set and 53.5% for coherence/cohesion (compared to a non-contextual baseline of 50%). A simple strategy of decoding the concatenation of the previous and current sentence leads to good performance, and our novel strategy of multi-encoding and decoding of two sentences leads to the best performance (72.5% for coreference and 57% for coherence/cohesion), highlighting the importance of target-side context.

Rico Sennrich has contributed to this work.

Venue: NAACL 2018 | Paper PDF | Paper BibTeX | Github Repo


Improving Word Sense Disambiguation in Neural Machine Translation with Sense Embeddings (2017)

Word sense disambiguation is necessary in translation because different word senses often have different translations. Neural machine translation models learn different senses of words as part of an end-to-end translation task, and their capability to perform word sense disambiguation has so far not been quantified.

We exploit the fact that neural translation models can score arbitrary translations to design a novel cross-lingual word sense disambiguation task that is tailored towards evaluating neural machine translation models. We present a test set of 7,200 lexical ambiguities for German-English, and 6,700 for German-French, and report baseline results.

With 70% of lexical ambiguities correctly disambiguated, we find that word sense disambiguation remains a challenging problem for neural machine translation, especially for rare word senses. To improve word sense disambiguation in neural machine translation, we experiment with two methods to integrate sense embeddings.

In a first approach we pass sense embeddings as additional input to the neural machine translation system. For the second experiment, we extract lexical chains based on sense embeddings from the document and integrate this information into the NMT model. While a baseline NMT system disambiguates frequent word senses quite reliably, the annotation with both sense labels and lexical chains improves the neural models' performance on rare word senses.

Venue: WMT 2017 | Paper PDF | Paper BibTeX | Github Repo