Multilingual Meta-Distillation Alignment for Semantic Retrieval

SIGIR 2024

Publication date: July 18, 2024

Meryem M'hamdi, Jonathan May, Franck Dernoncourt, Trung Bui, David Seunghyun Yoon

Multilingual semantic search is the task of retrieving relevant contents to a query expressed in different language combinations. This requires a better semantic understanding of the user's intent and its contextual meaning. Multilingual semantic search is less explored and more challenging than its monolingual or bilingual counterparts, due to the lack of multilingual parallel resources for this task and the need to circumvent "language bias". In this work, we propose an alignment approach: MAML-Align, specifically for low-resource scenarios. Our approach leverages meta-distillation learning based on MAML, an optimization-based Model-Agnostic Meta-Learner. MAML-Align distills knowledge from a Teacher meta-transfer model T-MAML, specialized in transferring from monolingual to bilingual semantic search, to a Student model S-MAML, which meta-transfers from bilingual to multilingual semantic search. To the best of our knowledge, we are the first to extend meta-distillation to a multilingual search application. Our empirical results show that on top of a strong baseline based on sentence transformers, our meta-distillation approach boosts the gains provided by MAML and significantly outperforms naive fine-tuning methods. Furthermore, multilingual meta-distillation learning improves generalization even to unseen languages.

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