In this work, we provide a systematic and comprehensive empirical comparison of pretrained multilingual language models versus their monolingual counterparts with regard to their monolingual task performance. We study a set of nine typologically diverse languages with readily available pretrained monolingual models on a set of five diverse monolingual downstream tasks. We first aim to establish, via fair and controlled comparisons, if a gap between the multilingual and the corresponding monolingual representation of that language exists, and subsequently investigate the reason for any performance difference. To disentangle conflating factors, we train new monolingual models on the same data, with monolingually and multilingually trained tokenizers. We find that while the pretraining data size is an important factor, a designated monolingual tokenizer plays an equally important role in the downstream performance. Our results show that languages that are adequately represented in the multilingual model’s vocabulary exhibit negligible performance decreases over their monolingual counterparts. We further find that replacing the original multilingual tokenizer with the specialized monolingual tokenizer improves the downstream performance of the multilingual model for almost every task and language.
Deep neural models have repeatedly proved excellent at memorizing surface patterns from large datasets for various ML and NLP benchmarks. They struggle to achieve human-like thinking, however, because they lack the skill of iterative reasoning upon knowledge. To expose this problem in a new light, we introduce a challenge on learning from small data, PuzzLing Machines, which consists of Rosetta Stone puzzles from Linguistic Olympiads for high school students. These puzzles are carefully designed to contain only the minimal amount of parallel text necessary to deduce the form of unseen expressions. Solving them does not require external information (e.g., knowledge bases, visual signals) or linguistic expertise, but meta-linguistic awareness and deductive skills. Our challenge contains around 100 puzzles covering a wide range of linguistic phenomena from 81 languages. We show that both simple statistical algorithms and state-of-the-art deep neural models perform inadequately on this challenge, as expected. We hope that this benchmark, available at https://ukplab.github.io/PuzzLing-Machines/, inspires further efforts towards a new paradigm in NLP—one that is grounded in human-like reasoning and understanding.