Mieke Van Herreweghe


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Frozen Pretrained Transformers for Neural Sign Language Translation
Mathieu De Coster | Karel D’Oosterlinck | Marija Pizurica | Paloma Rabaey | Severine Verlinden | Mieke Van Herreweghe | Joni Dambre
Proceedings of the 1st International Workshop on Automatic Translation for Signed and Spoken Languages (AT4SSL)

One of the major challenges in sign language translation from a sign language to a spoken language is the lack of parallel corpora. Recent works have achieved promising results on the RWTH-PHOENIX-Weather 2014T dataset, which consists of over eight thousand parallel sentences between German sign language and German. However, from the perspective of neural machine translation, this is still a tiny dataset. To improve the performance of models trained on small datasets, transfer learning can be used. While this has been previously applied in sign language translation for feature extraction, to the best of our knowledge, pretrained language models have not yet been investigated. We use pretrained BERT-base and mBART-50 models to initialize our sign language video to spoken language text translation model. To mitigate overfitting, we apply the frozen pretrained transformer technique: we freeze the majority of parameters during training. Using a pretrained BERT model, we outperform a baseline trained from scratch by 1 to 2 BLEU-4. Our results show that pretrained language models can be used to improve sign language translation performance and that the self-attention patterns in BERT transfer in zero-shot to the encoder and decoder of sign language translation models.


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Sign Language Recognition with Transformer Networks
Mathieu De Coster | Mieke Van Herreweghe | Joni Dambre
Proceedings of the Twelfth Language Resources and Evaluation Conference

Sign languages are complex languages. Research into them is ongoing, supported by large video corpora of which only small parts are annotated. Sign language recognition can be used to speed up the annotation process of these corpora, in order to aid research into sign languages and sign language recognition. Previous research has approached sign language recognition in various ways, using feature extraction techniques or end-to-end deep learning. In this work, we apply a combination of feature extraction using OpenPose for human keypoint estimation and end-to-end feature learning with Convolutional Neural Networks. The proven multi-head attention mechanism used in transformers is applied to recognize isolated signs in the Flemish Sign Language corpus. Our proposed method significantly outperforms the previous state of the art of sign language recognition on the Flemish Sign Language corpus: we obtain an accuracy of 74.7% on a vocabulary of 100 classes. Our results will be implemented as a suggestion system for sign language corpus annotation.