Reranking: Challenge Problem 4

In Assignment 2 you saw that search could find more probable translations, but this most useful when you have a good model. In Assignment 3 you saw that it was possible to create a metric that correlated (at least somewhat) with human assessments of machine translation systems. Armed with such a metric, you are now in a position to quantitatively evaluate machine translation output, which is an important step to creating a better model. In this assignment, you will be given a set of N-best candidate translations for each sentence of a French test set, and you will create a model to choose the best one. Your goal is to improve the translation quality by choosing better translations.

Getting Started

If you already have a clone of the repository from the previous assignments you can update it from anywhere in your project directory by running the command:

git pull origin master

Alternatively, clone a fresh version of the repository by running:

git clone

Under the new rerank directory, We have provided you with a very simple reranking program written in Python and a few utility programs. There is also a directory containing training and test datasets. Each dataset consists of many alternative machine translations for each sentence of the input data. To see the available translations of the 500 French sentences in data/, take a look at the file data/test.nbest. Each line contains a sentence number, a translation, and a set of feature values for that translation that were provided by a state-of-the-art translation model. The goal of the reranking program is to choose the best translation from among the many alternatives in the file. By default, the reranker weights all of the feature values uniformly and scores each candidate by their weighted sum. It then outputs the candidate with the minimum cost. To run it, type:

rerank > output

This runs the reranker and stores the set of sentences that it deems to be best in the file named output. We have additionally provided you with a program that calculates the BLEU score of the first 250 sentences of the test set from a set of human reference translations in data/test.en. Run this command:

grade < output

It is possible to do much better than the default reranker! To see this, run the command:

oracle | grade

The oracle uses the human reference translations to choose sentences from the N-best list that yield the highest BLEU score. The algorithm that does this is approximate, because actually finding the highest BLEU score is intractable (See footnote 8 of this paper for an explanation). But even though this is not a true upper bound on the BLEU score, you can see that there is quite a lot of room for improvement.

Of course, you will not be able to submit oracle translations for the assignment, because you don't have reference translations for the last 250 sentences of the test set. So you will need to develop a way to choose better sentences from the N-best list without access to a reference. To help you in this task, we have provided you with some training data (which includes both N-best lists and reference sentences) and a very simple implementation of the pairwise ranking optimization (PRO) algorithm, using a perceptron as its underlying classifier. PRO attempts to optimize translation quality towards BLEU score, the metric on which we evaluate. It produces a vector of weights for the features on the translations in the N-best list. The reranker can read this weight vector with the -w option. It takes the dot product of the weight vector and the feature values to rank the candidate translations, choosing the best one for each sentence. To run this process, type:

learn | rerank -w - | grade

You should observe that the BLEU score improves slightly. The learn program contains several parameters that you can optionally vary, which may improve accuracy.

The Challenge

Improving the model should cause the BLEU score to increase even more. Your task for this assignment is to improve the BLEU score as much as possible, subject to the constraint that your translations must come from the N-best list . While it is possible to do even better by considering candidate translations that are not in the N-best list, for this task you should focus on simply choosing the best translation from among the ones we have given you, rather than attempting to generate new candidates. Whoever obtains the highest BLEU score will receive the most points.

There are various ways that you might improve on the default system. It is quite likely that simply varying some of the parameters to the PRO algorithm will yield an improvement. However, there are many other ways that you might improve the reranker. These might include:

But the sky's the limit! There are many, many ways that you can improve the performance of the baseline translation system, and you can try anything you want as long as you follow the ground rules:

Ground Rules

  • You may work in independently or in groups of any size, under these conditions:
    1. You must notify us by posting a public note to piazza.
    2. Everyone in the group will receive the same grade on the assignment.
    3. You can add people or merge groups at any time before you post your final submission. HOWEVER, you cannot drop people from your group once you've added them. Collaboration is fine with us, but adjudicating Rashomon-style stories about who did or did not contribute is not.
  • You must turn in three things:
    1. Your translations of the test data (selected from the candidates in the N-best lists we provided), uploaded to BASE_URL/assignment4.txt following the Assignment 0 instructions. You can upload new output as often as you like. Your translations will be evaluated using a hidden metric. However, the grade program will give you a good indication of how you're doing, and the check program will verify that your output is correctly formatted for our hidden evaluation. Whoever has the highest score on the leaderboard at the assignment deadline will receive the most bonus points.
    2. Your code. Send us a URL from which we can get the code and git revision history (a link to a tarball will suffice, but you're free to send us a github link if you don't mind making your code public). This is due at the deadline: when you upload your final answer, send us the code. You are free to extend the code we provide or roll your own in whatever langugage you like, but the code should be self-contained, self-documenting, and easy to use.
    3. A description of your algorithm, posted to piazza. Brevity is encouraged, as long as it is clear what you did; a paragraph or even bullet points is fine. You should tell us not only about your final algorithm, but also things that you tried that didn't work, experiments that you did, or other interesting things that you observed while working on it. What did you learn? Please post your response within two days of submitting your final solution to the leaderboard; we will withold your grade until we receive it.
  • You should feel free to use additional data and utilities that you think will be useful. If you want to experiment with features based on parsers and taggers, go ahead. If you want to use different machine learning algorithms based on available toolkits, feel free. It is possible to complete the assignment with a very modest amount of python code. If you aren't sure whether something is permitted, ask us.

If you have any questions or you're confused about anything, just ask.