Here is my monthly summary of what new papers and preprints are liked the most during the previous month.

Multilingual Machine Translation with Large Language Models: Empirical Results and Analysis

Several institutions in China did a thorough evaluation of how large language models work for machine translation One might think yet another paper like this, but this one is much better than what Tencent did with ChatGPT and just a few tests sentences. This paper uses the Flores 101 test set, a pretty standard large test for 101 languages. Everything is based on promptining: no finetuning is involved. They test OPT (English GPT3-sized LLM by Meta, claimed to be an open alternative to GPT), BLOOMZ (finetued BLOOM, an open LLM for 40 languages), XGLM (multilingual LLM by Meta AI) and ChatGPT.

At the first glance, BLOOM seem to work really well, but inconsitently. This led the authors to the suspision that the Flores 101 tests (which are complied from Wikipedia) must have been in BLOOM’s the training data. This got confirmed, so they made a smaller test from very recent news.

The results are:


ChatGPT Beyond English: Towards a Comprehensive Evaluation of Large Language Models in Multilingual Learning

Among the very many papers that try to apply ChatGPT for task XY (typically without finding anything interesting), this paper clearly stands out. it is probably the first large-scale evaluation of what ChatGPT can do multilingually. They compare it with state-of-the-art approaches that used finetuned massively multilingual models. Long-story short: zero-shot ChatGPT is mostly worse than mT5 finetuned for the task doing zero-shot transfer from English. This holds for:

  • Text summarization

  • Cloze-style question answering (including IndicNLPSuite, which used IndicBERT)

  • NER (with DAMO based on XLM-R and mT5-IL finetuned from mT5 base)

The only task where ChatGPT won was POS tagging, where they used XLM-R (probably large) as a baseline. But who cares about POS tagging in 2023. Not only is ChatGPT much worse in the target languges, but it most cases, it is also worse than in English. It is not really a suprising finding, but it is nice to have it quantified: finetuning of reasonably sized models is still better than zero-shot with large models.

Escaping the sentence-level paradigm in machine translation

Folks from Microsoft try to draw attention to document-level MT and in order to do so, they prepared strong baselines and show how cool they are. From the research perspective, they do nothing really new: they use sentence-level parallel data at the beginning and only add document context during back-translation. They use as long a context as possible when they train. At inference time, they use overlapping text windows. The main message is that doing document-level MT pays off. They show it gets much better results in sentence-level metrics and contrastive evaluation specifically designed for document-level evaluation also showed significant impovements.

Translate to Disambiguate: Zero-shot Multilingual Word Sense Disambiguation with Pretrained Language Models

A preprint from the University of Washington introduces a method for intinsically assessing the cross-lingual language understanding of large language models that is based on word-sense disambuatuion. They create a dataset for cross-lingual disambiguation using Babelnet and evaluate the models in the zero-shot setup using tempates like this:

They do templates like this:

In the sentence "S" the word "w" is translation into L as ___

They compare two models GPT-NeoX (an open-source version of GPT by non-profit EleutherAI) and BLOOM (multilingual LLM for 40 languages by an international consortium led by Huggingface) and different model sizes. The English model has performance almost as good as BLOOM. Hard to say if it shows GPT-NeoX is unexpectedly multilingual or that BLOOM is not as great as it seems.

What else is going on…

WMT announced the next round of its general MT tasks for 8 language pairs, in total there 9 machine-translation-related tasks.

OpenAssistant released its first models, now also available as Hugging Chat. I was quite optimistic about its potential multilingual capabilities, but in Czech and Slovak, it does not work at all (it generates agrammatical outputs); in German it generates fluent language, but it makes much more factual errors than in English (I did not measure it, it is just my subjective impression).