Unsupervised Neural Machine Translation with Generative Language Models Only

We show how to derive state-of-the-art unsupervised neural machine translation systems from generatively pre-trained language models. Our method consists of three steps: few-shot amplification, distillation, and backtranslation. We first use the zero-shot translation ability of large pre-trained language models to generate translations for a small set of unlabeled sentences. We then amplify these zero-shot translations by using them as few-shot demonstrations for sampling a larger synthetic dataset. This dataset is distilled by discarding the few-shot demonstrations and then fine-tuning. During backtranslation, we repeatedly generate translations for a set of inputs and then fine-tune a single language model on both directions of the translation task at once, ensuring cycle-consistency by swapping the roles of gold monotext and generated translations when fine-tuning. By using our method to leverage GPT-3's zero-shot translation capability, we achieve a new state-of-the-art in unsupervised translation on the WMT14 English-French benchmark, attaining a BLEU score of 42.1.

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