We report two essential improvements in readability assessment: 1. three novel features in advanced semantics and 2. the timely evidence that traditional ML models (e.g. Random Forest, using handcrafted features) can combine with transformers (e.g. RoBERTa) to augment model performance. First, we explore suitable transformers and traditional ML models. Then, we extract 255 handcrafted linguistic features using self-developed extraction software. Finally, we assemble those to create several hybrid models, achieving state-of-the-art (SOTA) accuracy on popular datasets in readability assessment. The use of handcrafted features help model performance on smaller datasets. Notably, our RoBERTA-RF-T1 hybrid achieves the near-perfect classification accuracy of 99%, a 20.3% increase from the previous SOTA.

Many sequence-to-sequence generation tasks, including machine translation and text-to-speech, can be posed as estimating the density of the output y given the input x: p(y|x). Given this interpretation, it is natural to evaluate sequence-to-sequence models using conditional log-likelihood on a test set. However, the goal of sequence-to-sequence generation (or structured prediction) is to find the best output yˆ given an input x, and each task has its own downstream metric R that scores a model output by comparing against a set of references y*: R(yˆ, y* | x). While we hope that a model that excels in density estimation also performs well on the downstream metric, the exact correlation has not been studied for sequence generation tasks. In this paper, by comparing several density estimators on five machine translation tasks, we find that the correlation between rankings of models based on log-likelihood and BLEU varies significantly depending on the range of the model families being compared. First, log-likelihood is highly correlated with BLEU when we consider models within the same family (e.g. autoregressive models, or latent variable models with the same parameterization of the prior). However, we observe no correlation between rankings of models across different families: (1) among non-autoregressive latent variable models, a flexible prior distribution is better at density estimation but gives worse generation quality than a simple prior, and (2) autoregressive models offer the best translation performance overall, while latent variable models with a normalizing flow prior give the highest held-out log-likelihood across all datasets. Therefore, we recommend using a simple prior for the latent variable non-autoregressive model when fast generation speed is desired.

Developing a text readability assessment model specifically for texts in a foreign English Language Training (ELT) curriculum has never had much attention in the field of Natural Language Processing. Hence, most developed models show extremely low accuracy for L2 English texts, up to the point where not many even serve as a fair comparison. In this paper, we investigate a text readability assessment model for L2 English learners in Korea. In accordance, we improve and expand the Text Corpus of the Korean ELT curriculum (CoKEC-text). Each text is labeled with its target grade level. We train our model with CoKEC-text and significantly improve the accuracy of readability assessment for texts in the Korean ELT curriculum.

We propose an efficient inference procedure for non-autoregressive machine translation that iteratively refines translation purely in the continuous space. Given a continuous latent variable model for machine translation (Shu et al., 2020), we train an inference network to approximate the gradient of the marginal log probability of the target sentence, using the latent variable instead. This allows us to use gradient-based optimization to find the target sentence at inference time that approximately maximizes its marginal probability. As each refinement step only involves computation in the latent space of low dimensionality (we use 8 in our experiments), we avoid computational overhead incurred by existing non-autoregressive inference procedures that often refine in token space. We compare our approach to a recently proposed EM-like inference procedure (Shu et al., 2020) that optimizes in a hybrid space, consisting of both discrete and continuous variables. We evaluate our approach on WMT’14 En→De, WMT’16 Ro→En and IWSLT’16 De→En, and observe two advantages over the EM-like inference: (1) it is computationally efficient, i.e. each refinement step is twice as fast, and (2) it is more effective, resulting in higher marginal probabilities and BLEU scores with the same number of refinement steps. On WMT’14 En→De, for instance, our approach is able to decode 6.2 times faster than the autoregressive model with minimal degradation to translation quality (0.9 BLEU).

Emergent multi-agent communication protocols are very different from natural language and not easily interpretable by humans. We find that agents that were initially pretrained to produce natural language can also experience detrimental language drift: when a non-linguistic reward is used in a goal-based task, e.g. some scalar success metric, the communication protocol may easily and radically diverge from natural language. We recast translation as a multi-agent communication game and examine auxiliary training constraints for their effectiveness in mitigating language drift. We show that a combination of syntactic (language model likelihood) and semantic (visual grounding) constraints gives the best communication performance, allowing pre-trained agents to retain English syntax while learning to accurately convey the intended meaning.

We propose a conditional non-autoregressive neural sequence model based on iterative refinement. The proposed model is designed based on the principles of latent variable models and denoising autoencoders, and is generally applicable to any sequence generation task. We extensively evaluate the proposed model on machine translation (En-De and En-Ro) and image caption generation, and observe that it significantly speeds up decoding while maintaining the generation quality comparable to the autoregressive counterpart.

Most existing machine translation systems operate at the level of words, relying on explicit segmentation to extract tokens. We introduce a neural machine translation (NMT) model that maps a source character sequence to a target character sequence without any segmentation. We employ a character-level convolutional network with max-pooling at the encoder to reduce the length of source representation, allowing the model to be trained at a speed comparable to subword-level models while capturing local regularities. Our character-to-character model outperforms a recently proposed baseline with a subword-level encoder on WMT’15 DE-EN and CS-EN, and gives comparable performance on FI-EN and RU-EN. We then demonstrate that it is possible to share a single character-level encoder across multiple languages by training a model on a many-to-one translation task. In this multilingual setting, the character-level encoder significantly outperforms the subword-level encoder on all the language pairs. We observe that on CS-EN, FI-EN and RU-EN, the quality of the multilingual character-level translation even surpasses the models specifically trained on that language pair alone, both in terms of the BLEU score and human judgment.