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Human-Paraphrased References Improve Neural Machine Translation

George Foster
David Grangier
Colin Cherry
Proceedings of the Fifth Conference on Machine Translation (Volume 1: Research Papers) (2020)


Automatic evaluation comparing candidate translations to human-generated paraphrases of reference translations has recently been proposed by Freitag et al (2020). When used in place of original references, the paraphrased versions produce metric scores that correlate better with human judgment. This effect holds for a variety of different automatic metrics, and tends to favor natural formulations over more literal (translationese) ones. In this paper we compare the results of performing end-to-end system development using standard and paraphrased references. With state-of-the-art English-German NMT components, we show that tuning to paraphrased references produces a system that is significantly better according to human judgment, but 5 BLEU points worse when tested on standard references. Our work confirms the finding that paraphrased references yield metric scores that correlate better with human judgment, and demonstrates for the first time that using these scores for system development can lead to significant improvements.