The past year has witnessed rapid advances in sequence-to-sequence (seq2seq) modeling for Machine Translation (MT). The classic RNN-based approaches to MT were first out-performed by the convolutional seq2seq model, which was then out-performed by the more recent Transformer model. Each of these new approaches consists of a fundamental architecture accompanied by a set of modeling and training techniques that are in principle applicable to other seq2seq architectures. In this paper, we tease apart the new architectures and their accompanying techniques in two ways. First, we identify several key modeling and training techniques, and apply them to the RNN architecture, yielding a new RNMT+ model that outperforms all of the three fundamental architectures on the benchmark WMT’14 English to French and English to German tasks. Second, we analyze the properties of each fundamental seq2seq architecture and devise new hybrid architectures intended to combine their strengths. Our hybrid models obtain further improvements, outperforming the RNMT+ model on both benchmark datasets.
We propose a simple solution to use a single Neural Machine Translation (NMT) model to translate between multiple languages. Our solution requires no changes to the model architecture from a standard NMT system but instead introduces an artificial token at the beginning of the input sentence to specify the required target language. Using a shared wordpiece vocabulary, our approach enables Multilingual NMT systems using a single model. On the WMT’14 benchmarks, a single multilingual model achieves comparable performance for English→French and surpasses state-of-theart results for English→German. Similarly, a single multilingual model surpasses state-of-the-art results for French→English and German→English on WMT’14 and WMT’15 benchmarks, respectively. On production corpora, multilingual models of up to twelve language pairs allow for better translation of many individual pairs. Our models can also learn to perform implicit bridging between language pairs never seen explicitly during training, showing that transfer learning and zero-shot translation is possible for neural translation. Finally, we show analyses that hints at a universal interlingua representation in our models and also show some interesting examples when mixing languages.