Incorporating BERT into Parallel Sequence Decoding with Adapters

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 33 pre-proceedings (NeurIPS 2020)

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Junliang Guo, Zhirui Zhang, Linli Xu, Hao-Ran Wei, Boxing Chen, Enhong Chen


While large scale pre-trained language models such as BERT have achieved great success on various natural language understanding tasks, how to efficiently and effectively incorporate them into sequence-to-sequence models and the corresponding text generation tasks remains a non-trivial problem. In this paper, we propose to address this problem by taking two different BERT models as the encoder and decoder respectively, and fine-tuning them by introducing simple and lightweight adapter modules, which are inserted between BERT layers and tuned on the task-specific dataset. In this way, we obtain a flexible and efficient model which is able to jointly leverage the information contained in the source-side and target-side BERT models, while bypassing the catastrophic forgetting problem. Each component in the framework can be considered as a plug-in unit, making the framework flexible and task agnostic. Our framework is based on a parallel sequence decoding algorithm named Mask-Predict considering the bi-directional and conditional independent nature of BERT, and can be adapted to traditional autoregressive decoding easily. We conduct extensive experiments on neural machine translation tasks where the proposed method consistently outperforms autoregressive baselines while reducing the inference latency by half, and achieves $36.49$/$33.57$ BLEU scores on IWSLT14 German-English/WMT14 German-English translation. When adapted to autoregressive decoding, the proposed method achieves $30.60$/$43.56$ BLEU scores on WMT14 English-German/English-French translation, on par with the state-of-the-art baseline models.