Machine-Created Universal Language for Cross-lingual Transfer

22 May 2023  ·  Yaobo Liang, Quanzhi Zhu, Junhe Zhao, Nan Duan ·

There are two primary approaches to addressing cross-lingual transfer: multilingual pre-training, which implicitly aligns the hidden representations of various languages, and translate-test, which explicitly translates different languages into an intermediate language, such as English. Translate-test offers better interpretability compared to multilingual pre-training. However, it has lower performance than multilingual pre-training(Conneau and Lample, 2019; Conneau et al, 2020) and struggles with word-level tasks due to translation altering word order. As a result, we propose a new Machine-created Universal Language (MUL) as an alternative intermediate language. MUL comprises a set of discrete symbols forming a universal vocabulary and a natural language to MUL translator for converting multiple natural languages to MUL. MUL unifies shared concepts from various languages into a single universal word, enhancing cross-language transfer. Additionally, MUL retains language-specific words and word order, allowing the model to be easily applied to word-level tasks. Our experiments demonstrate that translating into MUL yields improved performance compared to multilingual pre-training, and our analysis indicates that MUL possesses strong interpretability. The code is at:

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