Tik-to-Tok: Translating Language Models One Token at a Time: An Embedding Initialization Strategy for Efficient Language Adaptation

Published on Oct 5, 2023


Training monolingual language models for low and mid-resource languages is made challenging by limited and often inadequate pretraining data. In this study, we propose a novel model conversion strategy to address this issue, adapting high-resources monolingual language models to a new target language. By generalizing over a word translation dictionary encompassing both the source and target languages, we map tokens from the target tokenizer to semantically similar tokens from the source language tokenizer. This one-to-many token mapping improves tremendously the initialization of the embedding table for the target language. We conduct experiments to convert high-resource models to mid- and low-resource languages, namely Dutch and Frisian. These converted models achieve a new state-of-the-art performance on these languages across all sorts of downstream tasks. By reducing significantly the amount of data and time required for training state-of-the-art models, our novel model conversion strategy has the potential to benefit many languages worldwide.


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