Google Research

Translate & Fill: Improving Zero-Shot Multilingual Semantic Parsing by Generating Synthetic Data

Proceedings of the 2021 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing (Findings), Association for Computational Linguistics (2021) (to appear)


While multilingual pretrained language models (LMs) fine-tuned on a single language have shown substantial cross-lingual task transfer capabilities, there is still a wide performance gap in semantic parsing tasks when target language supervision is available. In this paper, we propose a novel Translate-and-Fill (TaF) method for producing silver training data for a multilingual semantic parser. This method simplifies the popular Translate-Align-Project (TAP) pipeline and consists of a sequence-to-sequence filler model that constructs a full parse conditioned on an utterance and a view of the same parse. Our filler is trained on English data only but can accurately complete instances in other languages (i.e., translations of the English training utterances), in a zero-shot fashion. Experimental results on multiple multilingual semantic parsing datasets show that high-capacity multilingual pretrained LMs have remarkable zero-shot performance and with the help of our synthetic data, they reach competitive accuracy compared to similar systems which rely on traditional alignment techniques.

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