Learning to Translate with Products of Novices: A Suite of Open-Ended Challenge Problems for Teaching MT

Adam Lopez, Matt Post, Chris Callison-Burch, Jonathan Weese, Juri Ganitkevitch, Narges Ahmidi, Olivia Buzek, Leah Hanson, Beenish Jamil, Matthias Lee, Ya-Ting Lin, Henry Pao, Fatima Rivera, Leili Shahriyari, Debu Sinha, Adam Teichert, Stephen Wampler, Michael Weinberger, Daguang Xu, Lin Yang, Shang Zhao

Abstract


Machine translation (MT) draws from several different disciplines, making it a complex subject to teach. There are excellent pedagogical texts, but problems in MT and current algorithms for solving them are best learned by doing. As a centerpiece of our MT course, we devised a series of open-ended challenges for students in which the goal was to improve performance on carefully constrained instances of four key MT tasks: alignment, decoding, evaluation, and reranking. Students brought a diverse set of techniques to the problems, including some novel solutions which performed remarkably well. A surprising and exciting outcome was that student solutions or their combinations fared competitively on some tasks, demonstrating that even newcomers to the field can help improve the state-of-the-art on hard NLP problems while simultaneously learning a great deal. The problems, baseline code, and results are freely available. 


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