Improving Statistical Machine Translation for a Resource-Poor Language Using Related Resource-Rich Languages

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We propose a novel language-independent approach for improving machine translation for resource-poor languages by exploiting their similarity to resource-rich ones. More precisely, we improve the translation from a resource-poor source language X_1 into a resource-rich language Y given a bi-text containing a limited number of parallel sentences for X_1-Y and a larger bi-text for X_2-Y for some resource-rich language X_2 that is closely related to X_1. This is achieved by taking advantage of the opportunities that vocabulary overlap and similarities between the languages X_1 and X_2 in spelling, word order, and syntax offer: (1) we improve the word alignments for the resource-poor language, (2) we further augment it with additional translation options, and (3) we take care of potential spelling differences through appropriate transliteration. The evaluation for Indonesian- >English using Malay and for Spanish -> English using Portuguese and pretending Spanish is resource-poor shows an absolute gain of up to 1.35 and 3.37 BLEU points, respectively, which is an improvement over the best rivaling approaches, while using much less additional data. Overall, our method cuts the amount of necessary "real'' training data by a factor of 2--5.

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