Asa Cooper Stickland


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Robustification of Multilingual Language Models to Real-world Noise in Crosslingual Zero-shot Settings with Robust Contrastive Pretraining
Asa Cooper Stickland | Sailik Sengupta | Jason Krone | Saab Mansour | He He
Proceedings of the 17th Conference of the European Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics

Advances in neural modeling have achieved state-of-the-art (SOTA) results on public natural language processing (NLP) benchmarks, at times surpassing human performance. However, there is a gap between public benchmarks and real-world applications where noise, such as typographical or grammatical mistakes, is abundant and can result in degraded performance. Unfortunately, works which evaluate the robustness of neural models on noisy data and propose improvements, are limited to the English language. Upon analyzing noise in different languages, we observe that noise types vary greatly across languages. Thus, existing investigations do not generalize trivially to multilingual settings. To benchmark the performance of pretrained multilingual language models, we construct noisy datasets covering five languages and four NLP tasks and observe a clear gap in the performance between clean and noisy data in the zero-shot cross-lingual setting. After investigating several ways to boost the robustness of multilingual models in this setting, we propose Robust Contrastive Pretraining (RCP). RCP combines data augmentation with a contrastive loss term at the pretraining stage and achieves large improvements on noisy (and original test data) across two sentence-level (+3.2%) and two sequence-labeling (+10 F1-score) multilingual classification tasks.


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When does Parameter-Efficient Transfer Learning Work for Machine Translation?
Ahmet Üstün | Asa Cooper Stickland
Proceedings of the 2022 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

Parameter-efficient fine-tuning methods (PEFTs) offer the promise of adapting large pre-trained models while only tuning a small number of parameters. They have been shown to be competitive with full model fine-tuning for many downstream tasks. However, prior work indicates that PEFTs may not work as well for machine translation (MT), and there is no comprehensive study showing when PEFTs work for MT. We conduct a comprehensive empirical study of PEFTs for MT, considering (1) various parameter budgets, (2) a diverse set of language-pairs, and (3) different pre-trained models. We find that ‘adapters’, in which small feed-forward networks are added after every layer, are indeed on par with full model fine-tuning when the parameter budget corresponds to 10% of total model parameters. Nevertheless, as the number of tuned parameters decreases, the performance of PEFTs decreases. The magnitude of this decrease depends on the language pair, with PEFTs particularly struggling for distantly related language-pairs. We find that using PEFTs with a larger pre-trained model outperforms full fine-tuning with a smaller model, and for smaller training data sizes, PEFTs outperform full fine-tuning for the same pre-trained model.


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Recipes for Adapting Pre-trained Monolingual and Multilingual Models to Machine Translation
Asa Cooper Stickland | Xian Li | Marjan Ghazvininejad
Proceedings of the 16th Conference of the European Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Main Volume

There has been recent success in pre-training on monolingual data and fine-tuning on Machine Translation (MT), but it remains unclear how to best leverage a pre-trained model for a given MT task. This paper investigates the benefits and drawbacks of freezing parameters, and adding new ones, when fine-tuning a pre-trained model on MT. We focus on 1) Fine-tuning a model trained only on English monolingual data, BART. 2) Fine-tuning a model trained on monolingual data from 25 languages, mBART. For BART we get the best performance by freezing most of the model parameters, and adding extra positional embeddings. For mBART we match or outperform the performance of naive fine-tuning for most language pairs with the encoder, and most of the decoder, frozen. The encoder-decoder attention parameters are most important to fine-tune. When constraining ourselves to an out-of-domain training set for Vietnamese to English we see the largest improvements over the fine-tuning baseline.

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Multilingual Domain Adaptation for NMT: Decoupling Language and Domain Information with Adapters
Asa Cooper Stickland | Alexandre Berard | Vassilina Nikoulina
Proceedings of the Sixth Conference on Machine Translation

Adapter layers are lightweight, learnable units inserted between transformer layers. Recent work explores using such layers for neural machine translation (NMT), to adapt pre-trained models to new domains or language pairs, training only a small set of parameters for each new setting (language pair or domain). In this work we study the compositionality of language and domain adapters in the context of Machine Translation. We aim to study, 1) parameter-efficient adaptation to multiple domains and languages simultaneously (full-resource scenario) and 2) cross-lingual transfer in domains where parallel data is unavailable for certain language pairs (partial-resource scenario). We find that in the partial resource scenario a naive combination of domain-specific and language-specific adapters often results in ‘catastrophic forgetting’ of the missing languages. We study other ways to combine the adapters to alleviate this issue and maximize cross-lingual transfer. With our best adapter combinations, we obtain improvements of 3-4 BLEU on average for source languages that do not have in-domain data. For target languages without in-domain data, we achieve a similar improvement by combining adapters with back-translation. Supplementary material is available at

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Regularising Fisher Information Improves Cross-lingual Generalisation
Asa Cooper Stickland | Iain Murray
Proceedings of the 1st Workshop on Multilingual Representation Learning

Many recent works use ‘consistency regularisation’ to improve the generalisation of fine-tuned pre-trained models, both multilingual and English-only. These works encourage model outputs to be similar between a perturbed and normal version of the input, usually via penalising the Kullback–Leibler (KL) divergence between the probability distribution of the perturbed and normal model. We believe that consistency losses may be implicitly regularizing the loss landscape. In particular, we build on work hypothesising that implicitly or explicitly regularizing trace of the Fisher Information Matrix (FIM), amplifies the implicit bias of SGD to avoid memorization. Our initial results show both empirically and theoretically that consistency losses are related to the FIM, and show that the flat minima implied by a small trace of the FIM improves performance when fine-tuning a multilingual model on additional languages. We aim to confirm these initial results on more datasets, and use our insights to develop better multilingual fine-tuning techniques.