Teacher-student knowledge distillation is a popular technique for compressing today’s prevailing large language models into manageable sizes that fit low-latency downstream applications. Both the teacher and the choice of transfer set used for distillation are crucial ingredients in creating a high quality student. Yet, the generic corpora used to pretrain the teacher and the corpora associated with the downstream target domain are often significantly different, which raises a natural question: should the student be distilled over the generic corpora, so as to learn from high-quality teacher predictions, or over the downstream task corpora to align with finetuning? Our study investigates this trade-off using Domain Classification (DC) and Intent Classification/Named Entity Recognition (ICNER) as downstream tasks. We distill several multilingual students from a larger multilingual LM with varying proportions of generic and task-specific datasets, and report their performance after finetuning on DC and ICNER. We observe significant improvements across tasks and test sets when only task-specific corpora is used. We also report on how the impact of adding task-specific data to the transfer set correlates with the similarity between generic and task-specific data. Our results clearly indicate that, while distillation from a generic LM benefits downstream tasks, students learn better using target domain data even if it comes at the price of noisier teacher predictions. In other words, target domain data still trumps teacher knowledge.
Current voice assistants typically use the best hypothesis yielded by their Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) module as input to their Natural Language Understanding (NLU) module, thereby losing helpful information that might be stored in lower-ranked ASR hypotheses. We explore the change in performance of NLU associated tasks when utilizing five-best ASR hypotheses when compared to status quo for two language datasets, German and Portuguese. To harvest information from the ASR five-best, we leverage extractive summarization and joint extractive-abstractive summarization models for Domain Classification (DC) experiments while using a sequence-to-sequence model with a pointer generator network for Intent Classification (IC) and Named Entity Recognition (NER) multi-task experiments. For the DC full test set, we observe significant improvements of up to 7.2% and 15.5% in micro-averaged F1 scores, for German and Portuguese, respectively. In cases where the best ASR hypothesis was not an exact match to the transcribed utterance (mismatched test set), we see improvements of up to 6.7% and 8.8% micro-averaged F1 scores, for German and Portuguese, respectively. For IC and NER multi-task experiments, when evaluating on the mismatched test set, we see improvements across all domains in German and in 17 out of 19 domains in Portuguese (improvements based on change in SeMER scores). Our results suggest that the use of multiple ASR hypotheses, as opposed to one, can lead to significant performance improvements in the DC task for these non-English datasets. In addition, it could lead to significant improvement in the performance of IC and NER tasks in cases where the ASR model makes mistakes.