Despite the progress we have recorded in scaling multilingual machine translation (MT) models and evaluation data to several under-resourced African languages, it is difficult to measure accurately the progress we have made on these languages because evaluation is often performed on n-gram matching metrics like BLEU that often have worse correlation with human judgments. Embedding-based metrics such as COMET correlate better; however, lack of evaluation data with human ratings for under-resourced languages, complexity of annotation guidelines like Multidimensional Quality Metrics (MQM), and limited language coverage of multilingual encoders have hampered their applicability to African languages. In this paper, we address these challenges by creating high-quality human evaluation data with a simplified MQM guideline for error-span annotation and direct assessment (DA) scoring for 13 typologically diverse African languages. Furthermore, we develop AfriCOMET, a COMET evaluation metric for African languages by leveraging DA training data from high-resource languages and African-centric multilingual encoder (AfroXLM-Roberta) to create the state-of-the-art evaluation metric for African languages MT with respect to Spearman-rank correlation with human judgments (+0.406).
African languages have far less in-language content available digitally, making it challenging for question answering systems to satisfy the information needs of users. Cross-lingual open-retrieval question answering (XOR QA) systems -- those that retrieve answer content from other languages while serving people in their native language -- offer a means of filling this gap. To this end, we create AfriQA, the first cross-lingual QA dataset with a focus on African languages. AfriQA includes 12,000+ XOR QA examples across 10 African languages. While previous datasets have focused primarily on languages where cross-lingual QA augments coverage from the target language, AfriQA focuses on languages where cross-lingual answer content is the only high-coverage source of answer content. Because of this, we argue that African languages are one of the most important and realistic use cases for XOR QA. Our experiments demonstrate the poor performance of automatic translation and multilingual retrieval methods. Overall, AfriQA proves challenging for state-of-the-art QA models. We hope that the dataset enables the development of more equitable QA technology.
African languages are severely under-represented in NLP research due to lack of datasets covering several NLP tasks. While there are individual language specific datasets that are being expanded to different tasks, only a handful of NLP tasks (e.g. named entity recognition and machine translation) have standardized benchmark datasets covering several geographical and typologically-diverse African languages. In this paper, we develop MasakhaNEWS -- a new benchmark dataset for news topic classification covering 16 languages widely spoken in Africa. We provide an evaluation of baseline models by training classical machine learning models and fine-tuning several language models. Furthermore, we explore several alternatives to full fine-tuning of language models that are better suited for zero-shot and few-shot learning such as cross-lingual parameter-efficient fine-tuning (like MAD-X), pattern exploiting training (PET), prompting language models (like ChatGPT), and prompt-free sentence transformer fine-tuning (SetFit and Cohere Embedding API). Our evaluation in zero-shot setting shows the potential of prompting ChatGPT for news topic classification in low-resource African languages, achieving an average performance of 70 F1 points without leveraging additional supervision like MAD-X. In few-shot setting, we show that with as little as 10 examples per label, we achieved more than 90\% (i.e. 86.0 F1 points) of the performance of full supervised training (92.6 F1 points) leveraging the PET approach.
Question answering (QA) models have shown compelling results in the task of Machine Reading Comprehension (MRC). Recently these systems have proved to perform better than humans on held-out test sets of datasets e.g. SQuAD, but their robustness is not guaranteed. The QA model's brittleness is exposed when evaluated on adversarial generated examples by a performance drop. In this study, we explore the robustness of MRC models to entity renaming, with entities from low-resource regions such as Africa. We propose EntSwap, a method for test-time perturbations, to create a test set whose entities have been renamed. In particular, we rename entities of type: country, person, nationality, location, organization, and city, to create AfriSQuAD2. Using the perturbed test set, we evaluate the robustness of three popular MRC models. We find that compared to base models, large models perform well comparatively on novel entities. Furthermore, our analysis indicates that entity type person highly challenges the MRC models' performance.
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.
$ $Dialogue systems are evaluated depending on their type and purpose. Two categories are often distinguished: (1) task-oriented dialogue systems (TDS), which are typically evaluated on utility, i.e., their ability to complete a specified task, and (2) open domain chatbots, which are evaluated on the user experience, i.e., based on their ability to engage a person. What is the influence of user experience on the user satisfaction rating of TDS as opposed to, or in addition to, utility? We collect data by providing an additional annotation layer for dialogues sampled from the ReDial dataset, a widely used conversational recommendation dataset. Unlike prior work, we annotate the sampled dialogues at both the turn and dialogue level on six dialogue aspects: relevance, interestingness, understanding, task completion, efficiency, and interest arousal. The annotations allow us to study how different dialogue aspects influence user satisfaction. We introduce a comprehensive set of user experience aspects derived from the annotators' open comments that can influence users' overall impression. We find that the concept of satisfaction varies across annotators and dialogues, and show that a relevant turn is significant for some annotators, while for others, an interesting turn is all they need. Our analysis indicates that the proposed user experience aspects provide a fine-grained analysis of user satisfaction that is not captured by a monolithic overall human rating.
We take a step towards addressing the under-representation of the African continent in NLP research by creating the first large publicly available high-quality dataset for named entity recognition (NER) in ten African languages, bringing together a variety of stakeholders. We detail characteristics of the languages to help researchers understand the challenges that these languages pose for NER. We analyze our datasets and conduct an extensive empirical evaluation of state-of-the-art methods across both supervised and transfer learning settings. We release the data, code, and models in order to inspire future research on African NLP.