Machine translation is a popular test bed for research in neural sequence-to-sequence models but despite much recent research, there is still a lack of understanding of these models. Practitioners report performance degradation with large beams, the under-estimation of rare words and a lack of diversity in the final translations. Our study relates some of these issues to the inherent uncertainty of the task, due to the existence of multiple valid translations for a single source sentence, and to the extrinsic uncertainty caused by noisy training data. We propose tools and metrics to assess how uncertainty in the data is captured by the model distribution and how it affects search strategies that generate translations. Our results show that search works remarkably well but that the models tend to spread too much probability mass over the hypothesis space. Next, we propose tools to assess model calibration and show how to easily fix some shortcomings of current models. We release both code and multiple human reference translations for two popular benchmarks.
Machine translation systems achieve near human-level performance on some languages, yet their effectiveness strongly relies on the availability of large amounts of parallel sentences, which hinders their applicability to the majority of language pairs. This work investigates how to learn to translate when having access to only large monolingual corpora in each language. We propose two model variants, a neural and a phrase-based model. Both versions leverage a careful initialization of the parameters, the denoising effect of language models and automatic generation of parallel data by iterative back-translation. These models are significantly better than methods from the literature, while being simpler and having fewer hyper-parameters. On the widely used WMT'14 English-French and WMT'16 German-English benchmarks, our models respectively obtain 28.1 and 25.2 BLEU points without using a single parallel sentence, outperforming the state of the art by more than 11 BLEU points. On low-resource languages like English-Urdu and English-Romanian, our methods achieve even better results than semi-supervised and supervised approaches leveraging the paucity of available bitexts. Our code for NMT and PBSMT is publicly available.
Multi-source translation is an approach to exploit multiple inputs (e.g. in two different languages) to increase translation accuracy. In this paper, we examine approaches for multi-source neural machine translation (NMT) using an incomplete multilingual corpus in which some translations are missing. In practice, many multilingual corpora are not complete due to the difficulty to provide translations in all of the relevant languages (for example, in TED talks, most English talks only have subtitles for a small portion of the languages that TED supports). Existing studies on multi-source translation did not explicitly handle such situations. This study focuses on the use of incomplete multilingual corpora in multi-encoder NMT and mixture of NMT experts and examines a very simple implementation where missing source translations are replaced by a special symbol <NULL>. These methods allow us to use incomplete corpora both at training time and test time. In experiments with real incomplete multilingual corpora of TED Talks, the multi-source NMT with the <NULL> tokens achieved higher translation accuracies measured by BLEU than those by any one-to-one NMT systems.
Sequence to sequence learning models still require several days to reach state of the art performance on large benchmark datasets using a single machine. This paper shows that reduced precision and large batch training can speedup training by nearly 5x on a single 8-GPU machine with careful tuning and implementation. On WMT'14 English-German translation, we match the accuracy of (Vaswani et al 2017) in under 5 hours when training on 8 GPUs and we obtain a new state of the art of 29.3 BLEU after training for 91 minutes on 128 GPUs. We further improve these results to 29.8 BLEU by training on the much larger Paracrawl dataset.
Machine translation systems require semantic knowledge and grammatical understanding. Neural machine translation (NMT) systems often assume this information is captured by an attention mechanism and a decoder that ensures fluency. Recent work has shown that incorporating explicit syntax alleviates the burden of modeling both types of knowledge. However, requiring parses is expensive and does not explore the question of what syntax a model needs during translation. To address both of these issues we introduce a model that simultaneously translates while inducing dependency trees. In this way, we leverage the benefits of structure while investigating what syntax NMT must induce to maximize performance. We show that our dependency trees are 1. language pair dependent and 2. improve translation quality.
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).
Homographs, words with different meanings but the same surface form, have long caused difficulty for machine translation systems, as it is difficult to select the correct translation based on the context. However, with the advent of neural machine translation (NMT) systems, which can theoretically take into account global sentential context, one may hypothesize that this problem has been alleviated. In this paper, we first provide empirical evidence that existing NMT systems in fact still have significant problems in properly translating ambiguous words. We then proceed to describe methods, inspired by the word sense disambiguation literature, that model the context of the input word with context-aware word embeddings that help to differentiate the word sense be- fore feeding it into the encoder. Experiments on three language pairs demonstrate that such models improve the performance of NMT systems both in terms of BLEU score and in the accuracy of translating homographs.
Neural sequence-to-sequence networks with attention have achieved remarkable performance for machine translation. One of the reasons for their effectiveness is their ability to capture relevant source-side contextual information at each time-step prediction through an attention mechanism. However, the target-side context is solely based on the sequence model which, in practice, is prone to a recency bias and lacks the ability to capture effectively non-sequential dependencies among words. To address this limitation, we propose a target-side-attentive residual recurrent network for decoding, where attention over previous words contributes directly to the prediction of the next word. The residual learning facilitates the flow of information from the distant past and is able to emphasize any of the previously translated words, hence it gains access to a wider context. The proposed model outperforms a neural MT baseline as well as a memory and self-attention network on three language pairs. The analysis of the attention learned by the decoder confirms that it emphasizes a wider context, and that it captures syntactic-like structures.
Monolingual data have been demonstrated to be helpful in improving translation quality of both statistical machine translation (SMT) systems and neural machine translation (NMT) systems, especially in resource-poor or domain adaptation tasks where parallel data are not rich enough. In this paper, we propose a novel approach to better leveraging monolingual data for neural machine translation by jointly learning source-to-target and target-to-source NMT models for a language pair with a joint EM optimization method. The training process starts with two initial NMT models pre-trained on parallel data for each direction, and these two models are iteratively updated by incrementally decreasing translation losses on training data. In each iteration step, both NMT models are first used to translate monolingual data from one language to the other, forming pseudo-training data of the other NMT model. Then two new NMT models are learnt from parallel data together with the pseudo training data. Both NMT models are expected to be improved and better pseudo-training data can be generated in next step. Experiment results on Chinese-English and English-German translation tasks show that our approach can simultaneously improve translation quality of source-to-target and target-to-source models, significantly outperforming strong baseline systems which are enhanced with monolingual data for model training including back-translation.
In spite of the recent success of neural machine translation (NMT) in standard benchmarks, the lack of large parallel corpora poses a major practical problem for many language pairs. There have been several proposals to alleviate this issue with, for instance, triangulation and semi-supervised learning techniques, but they still require a strong cross-lingual signal. In this work, we completely remove the need of parallel data and propose a novel method to train an NMT system in a completely unsupervised manner, relying on nothing but monolingual corpora. Our model builds upon the recent work on unsupervised embedding mappings, and consists of a slightly modified attentional encoder-decoder model that can be trained on monolingual corpora alone using a combination of denoising and backtranslation. Despite the simplicity of the approach, our system obtains 15.56 and 10.21 BLEU points in WMT 2014 French-to-English and German-to-English translation. The model can also profit from small parallel corpora, and attains 21.81 and 15.24 points when combined with 100,000 parallel sentences, respectively. Our implementation is released as an open source project.
Partially inspired by successful applications of variational recurrent neural networks, we propose a novel variational recurrent neural machine translation (VRNMT) model in this paper. Different from the variational NMT, VRNMT introduces a series of latent random variables to model the translation procedure of a sentence in a generative way, instead of a single latent variable. Specifically, the latent random variables are included into the hidden states of the NMT decoder with elements from the variational autoencoder. In this way, these variables are recurrently generated, which enables them to further capture strong and complex dependencies among the output translations at different timesteps. In order to deal with the challenges in performing efficient posterior inference and large-scale training during the incorporation of latent variables, we build a neural posterior approximator, and equip it with a reparameterization technique to estimate the variational lower bound. Experiments on Chinese-English and English-German translation tasks demonstrate that the proposed model achieves significant improvements over both the conventional and variational NMT models.