Cross-Lingual Transfer Learning for Multilingual Task Oriented Dialog

One of the first steps in the utterance interpretation pipeline of many task-oriented conversational AI systems is to identify user intents and the corresponding slots. Since data collection for machine learning models for this task is time-consuming, it is desirable to make use of existing data in a high-resource language to train models in low-resource languages. However, development of such models has largely been hindered by the lack of multilingual training data. In this paper, we present a new data set of 57k annotated utterances in English (43k), Spanish (8.6k) and Thai (5k) across the domains weather, alarm, and reminder. We use this data set to evaluate three different cross-lingual transfer methods: (1) translating the training data, (2) using cross-lingual pre-trained embeddings, and (3) a novel method of using a multilingual machine translation encoder as contextual word representations. We find that given several hundred training examples in the the target language, the latter two methods outperform translating the training data. Further, in very low-resource settings, multilingual contextual word representations give better results than using cross-lingual static embeddings. We also compare the cross-lingual methods to using monolingual resources in the form of contextual ELMo representations and find that given just small amounts of target language data, this method outperforms all cross-lingual methods, which highlights the need for more sophisticated cross-lingual methods.

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