Adapting to Non-Centered Languages for Zero-shot Multilingual Translation

Multilingual neural machine translation can translate unseen language pairs during training, i.e. zero-shot translation. However, the zero-shot translation is always unstable. Although prior works attributed the instability to the domination of central language, e.g. English, we supplement this viewpoint with the strict dependence of non-centered languages. In this work, we propose a simple, lightweight yet effective language-specific modeling method by adapting to non-centered languages and combining the shared information and the language-specific information to counteract the instability of zero-shot translation. Experiments with Transformer on IWSLT17, Europarl, TED talks, and OPUS-100 datasets show that our method not only performs better than strong baselines in centered data conditions but also can easily fit non-centered data conditions. By further investigating the layer attribution, we show that our proposed method can disentangle the coupled representation in the correct direction.

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