Google Research

Expanding Pretrained Models to Thousands More Languages via Lexicon-based Adaptation

ACL 2022 (2022) (to appear)


The performance of multilingual pretrained models is highly dependent on the availability of monolingual or parallel text present in a target language. Thus, the majority of the world's languages cannot benefit from recent progress in NLP because they have no or limited textual data. To expand possibilities of using NLP technology in these under-represented languages, we systematically study strategies that relax the reliance on conventional language resources through the use of bilingual lexicons, an alternative resource with much better language coverage. We analyze different strategies to synthesize textual or labeled data using lexicons, and how this data can be combined with monolingual or parallel text when available. For 19 under-represented languages across 3 tasks, our methods lead to consistent average improvements of up to 5 and 15 points with and without extra monolingual text respectively. Overall, our study highlights how NLP methods can be adapted to thousands more languages that are under-served by current technology.

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