Scaling Laws for Multilingual Neural Machine Translation


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In this work, we provide a large-scale empirical study of the scaling properties of multilingual neural machine translation models. We examine how increases in the model size affect the model performance and investigate the role of the training mixture composition on the scaling behavior. We find that changing the weightings of the individual language pairs in the training mixture only affect the multiplicative factor of the scaling law. In particular, we observe that multilingual models trained using different mixing rates all exhibit the same scaling exponent. Through a novel joint scaling law formulation, we compute the effective number of parameters allocated to each language pair and examine the role of language similarity in the scaling behavior of our models. We find little evidence that language similarity has any impact. In contrast, the direction of the multilinguality plays a significant role, with models translating from multiple languages into English having a larger number of effective parameters per task than their reversed counterparts. Finally, we leverage our observations to predict the performance of multilingual models trained with any language weighting at any scale, significantly reducing efforts required for language balancing in large multilingual models. Our findings apply to both in-domain and out-of-domain test sets and to multiple evaluation metrics, such as ChrF and BLEURT.
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