Google Research

(Almost) Zero-Shot Cross-Lingual Spoken Language Understanding

Proceedings of the IEEE ICASSP (2018)


Spoken language understanding (SLU) is a component of goal-oriented dialogue systems that aims to interpret user's natural language queries in system's semantic representation format. While current state-of-the-art SLU approaches achieve high performance for English domains, the same is not true for other languages. Approaches in the literature for extending SLU models and grammars to new languages rely primarily on machine translation. This poses a challenge in scaling to new languages, as machine translation systems may not be reliable for several (especially low resource) languages. In this work, we examine different approaches to train a SLU component with little supervision for two new languages -- Hindi and Turkish, and show that with only a few hundred labeled examples we can surpass the approaches proposed in the literature. Our experiments show that training a model bilingually (i.e., jointly with English), enables faster learning, in that the model requires fewer labeled instances in the target language to generalize. Qualitative analysis shows that rare slot types benefit the most from the bilingual training.

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