VECO: Variable Encoder-decoder Pre-training for Cross-lingual Understanding and Generation
Recent studies about learning multilingual representations have achieved significant performance gains across a wide range of downstream cross-lingual tasks. They train either an encoder-only Transformer mainly for understanding tasks, or an encoder-decoder Transformer specifically for generation tasks, ignoring the correlation between the two tasks and frameworks. In contrast, this paper presents a variable encoder-decoder (VECO) pre-training approach to unify the two mainstreams in both model architectures and pre-training tasks. VECO splits the standard Transformer block into several sub-modules trained with both inner-sequence and cross-sequence masked language modeling, and correspondingly reorganizes certain sub-modules for understanding and generation tasks during inference. Such a workflow not only ensures to train the most streamlined parameters necessary for two kinds of tasks, but also enables them to boost each other via sharing common sub-modules. As a result, VECO delivers new state-of-the-art results on various cross-lingual understanding tasks of the XTREME benchmark covering text classification, sequence labeling, question answering, and sentence retrieval. For generation tasks, VECO also outperforms all existing cross-lingual models and state-of-the-art Transformer variants on WMT14 English-to-German and English-to-French translation datasets, with gains of up to 1~2 BLEU.