Pivot Through English: Reliably Answering Multilingual Questions without Document Retrieval

Abstract

Existing methods for open-retrieval question answering in lower resource languages (LRLs) lag significantly behind English. They not only suffer from the shortcomings of non-English document retrieval, but are reliant on language-specific supervision for either the task or translation. We formulate a task setup more realistic to available resources, that circumvents document retrieval to reliably transfer knowledge from English to lower resource languages. Assuming a strong English question answering model or database, we compare and analyze methods that pivot through English: to map foreign queries to English and then English answers back to target language answers. Within this task setup we propose Reranked Multilingual Maximal Inner Product Search (RM-MIPS), akin to semantic similarity retrieval over the English training set with reranking, which outperforms the strongest baselines by 2.7% on XQuAD and 6.2% on MKQA. Analysis demonstrates the particular efficacy of this strategy over state-of-the-art alternatives in challenging settings: low-resource languages, with extensive distractor data and query distribution misalignment. Circumventing retrieval, our analysis shows this approach offers rapid answer generation to almost any language off-the-shelf, without the need for any additional training data in the target language.

Publication
ArXiv Preprint
Shayne Longpre
Shayne Longpre
Applied ML Scientist (NLP)

My research interests include ML/NLP, antitrust, and ethical use of technology.