Machine Translation from Standard German to Alemannic Dialects

Louisa Lambrecht • Felix Schneider • Alexander Waibel

Proceedings of the 1st Annual Meeting of the ELRA/ISCA Special Interest Group on Under-Resourced Languages (SIGUL2022@LREC2022), Marseille, France, June 2022.

Machine translation has been researched using deep neural networks in recent years. These networks require lots of data to learn abstract representations of the input stored in continuous vectors. Dialect translation has become more important since the advent of social media. In particular, when dialect speakers and standard language speakers no longer understand each other, machine translation is of rising concern. Usually, dialect translation is a typical low-resourced language setting facing data scarcity problems. Additionally, spelling inconsistencies due to varying pronunciations and the lack of spelling rules complicate translation. This paper presents the best-performing approaches to handle these problems for Alemannic dialects. The results show that back-translation and conditioning on dialectal manifestations achieve the most remarkable enhancement over the baseline. Using back-translation, a significant gain of +4.5 over the strong transformer baseline of 37.3 BLEU points is accomplished. Differentiating between several Alemannic dialects instead of treating Alemannic as one dialect leads to substantial improvements: Multi-dialectal translation surpasses the baseline on the dialectal test sets. However, training individual models outperforms the multi-dialectal approach. There, improvements range from 7.5 to 10.6 BLEU points over the baseline depending on the dialect.