In this work, we induce character-level noise in various forms when fine-tuning BERT to enable zero-shot cross-lingual transfer to unseen dialects and languages. We fine-tune BERT on three sentence-level classification tasks and evaluate our approach on an assortment of unseen dialects and languages. We find that character-level noise can be an extremely effective agent of cross-lingual transfer under certain conditions, while it is not as helpful in others. Specifically, we explore these differences in terms of the nature of the task and the relationships between source and target languages, finding that introduction of character-level noise during fine-tuning is particularly helpful when a task draws on surface level cues and the source-target cross-lingual pair has a relatively high lexical overlap with shorter (i.e., less meaningful) unseen tokens on average.
Language models demonstrate both quantitative improvement and new qualitative capabilities with increasing scale. Despite their potentially transformative impact, these new capabilities are as yet poorly characterized. In order to inform future research, prepare for disruptive new model capabilities, and ameliorate socially harmful effects, it is vital that we understand the present and near-future capabilities and limitations of language models. To address this challenge, we introduce the Beyond the Imitation Game benchmark (BIG-bench). BIG-bench currently consists of 204 tasks, contributed by 442 authors across 132 institutions. Task topics are diverse, drawing problems from linguistics, childhood development, math, common-sense reasoning, biology, physics, social bias, software development, and beyond. BIG-bench focuses on tasks that are believed to be beyond the capabilities of current language models. We evaluate the behavior of OpenAI's GPT models, Google-internal dense transformer architectures, and Switch-style sparse transformers on BIG-bench, across model sizes spanning millions to hundreds of billions of parameters. In addition, a team of human expert raters performed all tasks in order to provide a strong baseline. Findings include: model performance and calibration both improve with scale, but are poor in absolute terms (and when compared with rater performance); performance is remarkably similar across model classes, though with benefits from sparsity; tasks that improve gradually and predictably commonly involve a large knowledge or memorization component, whereas tasks that exhibit "breakthrough" behavior at a critical scale often involve multiple steps or components, or brittle metrics; social bias typically increases with scale in settings with ambiguous context, but this can be improved with prompting.