Google Research

Machine translation pre-training for data-to-text generation - A case study in Czech

Proceedings of the 13th International Conference on Natural Language Generation (INLG 2020)

Abstract

While there is a large body of research studying deep learning methods for text generation from structured data, almost all of it focuses purely on English. In this paper, we study the effectiveness of machine translation based pre-training for data-to-text generation in non-English languages. Since the structured data is generally expressed in English, text generation into other languages involves elements of translation, transliteration and copying - elements already encoded in neural machine translation systems. Moreover, since data-to-text corpora are typically small, this task can benefit greatly from pre-training. Based on our experiments on Czech, a morphologically complex language, we find that pre-training lets us train end-to-end models with significantly improved performance, as judged by automatic metrics and human evaluation. We also show that this approach enjoys several desirable properties, including improved performance in low data scenarios and robustness to unseen slot values.

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