Large-scale autoregressive language models such as GPT-3 are few-shot learners that can perform a wide range of language tasks without fine-tuning. While these models are known to be able to jointly represent many different languages, their training data is dominated by English, potentially limiting their cross-lingual generalization. In this work, we train multilingual autoregressive language models on a balanced corpus covering a diverse set of languages, and study their few- and zero-shot learning capabilities in a wide range of tasks. Our largest model with 7.5 billion parameters sets new state of the art in few-shot learning in more than 20 representative languages, outperforming GPT-3 of comparable size in multilingual commonsense reasoning (with +7.4% absolute accuracy improvement in 0-shot settings and +9.4% in 4-shot settings) and natural language inference (+5.4% in each of 0-shot and 4-shot settings). On the FLORES-101 machine translation benchmark, our model outperforms GPT-3 on 171 out of 182 translation directions with 32 training examples, while surpassing the official supervised baseline in 45 directions. We present a detailed analysis of where the model succeeds and fails, showing in particular that it enables cross-lingual in-context learning on some tasks, while there is still room for improvement on surface form robustness and adaptation to tasks that do not have a natural cloze form. Finally, we evaluate our models in social value tasks such as hate speech detection in five languages and find it has limitations similar to comparable sized GPT-3 models.

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