Skip to content
Switch branches/tags

Latest commit


Git stats


Failed to load latest commit information.
Latest commit message
Commit time

LaNMT: Latent-variable Non-autoregressive Neural Machine Translation with Deterministic Inference

Update: this paper is accepted by AAAI 2020.

LaNMT implements a latent-variable framework for non-autoregressive neural machine translation. As you can guess from the code, it's has a simple architecture but powerful performance. For the details of this model, you can check our paper on Arxiv . To cite the paper:

  title={Latent-Variable Non-Autoregressive Neural Machine Translation with Deterministic Inference Using a Delta Posterior},
  author={Raphael Shu and Jason Lee and Hideki Nakayama and Kyunghyun Cho},

What is non-autoregressive neural machine translation?

In conventional neural machine translation modes, the decoder side is a language model. That means the model generate a single word in each time step. So you have to compute the neural network by N times in order to get a translation of N words. See the illustration below:

Such models can't fully exploit the parallelizability of GPU as you have to wait preceeding words to be generated to find the next word. In constrast, non-autoregressive models generate all target words in just one run of neural computation. As all target tokens are predicted simutaneously, the translation speed can be much faster.

Our model

We learn a set of continuous latent variables z to capture the information and intra-word dependencies of the target tokens. Intuitively, if the model is perfectly trained and the target sequence can be fully reconstructed from the latent variables without error, then the translation problem becomes a problem of finding adequate z. This is illustrated in the picture below, which shows the relations among x, z and y.

In practice, we force the latent variables to have very low dimensions such as 8. Obviously, handling things in a low-dimension countinuous space is easier comparing to a high-dimension discrete space.

Our model is trained by maximizing the following objective, which is a lower bound of log-likehood. We call it evidence lower bound (ELBO). The first part is a reconstruction loss that makes sure you can predict target sequence from z. The second part is a KL divergence, which makes the z more predictable given the source sequence.

Now for the parameterization, the model is implemented with the architecture in the picture below. Does it appear to be more complicated comparing to a standard Transformer? Well, you are now computing four probabilities instead of only p(y|x). However, as the model is basically reusing the Transformer modules such as self-attention and cross-attention, it's still pretty easy to implement.

One thing special about this model is that the number of latent variables is always identical to the source tokens, as you can guess from the second figure in this post. As each z_i is a continuous vector, z is a L_x by D matrix, where L_x is the length of the source sequence, and D is the dimension of latent variables. For the Transformer decoder to predict target tokens that have a length longer or shorter than L_x, we need a funtion to adjust the length of latent variables, just like this:

As a result, z' will be a L_y by D matrix. The implementation of this length transforming function can be found in (class LengthConverter) .

Install Package Dependency

The code depends on PyTorch, torchtext for data loading, nmtlab for Transformer modules and horovod for multi-gpu training.

Note that although you can train the model on a single GPU, but for a large dataset such as WMT14, the training takes a lot of time without multi-gpu support. We recommend you to get 4 ~ 8 GPUs for this task.

We recommend installing with conda.

-1. (If you don't have conda) Download and Install Miniconda for Python 3

mkdir ~/apps; cd ~/apps

Reload the bash/zsh and run python to check it's using the python in Miniconda.

-2. Install pytorch following

-3. (Only for multi-gpu training) Install horovod following

mkdir ~/apps; cd ~/apps
tar xzvf openmpi-4.0.1.tar.gz
cd openmpi-4.0.1
# Suppose you have Miniconda3 in your home directory
./configure --prefix=$HOME/miniconda3 --disable-mca-dso
make -j 8
make install

Check whether the openmpi is correctly installed by running mpirun. Then install horovod with:

conda install -y gxx_linux-64
# If you don't have NCCL
pip install horovod
# If you have NCCL in /usr/local/nccl
HOROVOD_GPU_ALLREDUCE=NCCL HOROVOD_NCCL_HOME=/usr/local/nccl pip install horovod

Check horovod by running horovodrun.

-5. Run pip install torchtext nmtlab

-6. Clone this github repo, run

cd ~/
git clone
cd lanmt

Download pre-processed WMT14 dataset and teacher Transformer models

We pre-processed the WMT14 dataset with sentencepiece and make the vocabulary size 32k for both source and target sides. For knowledge distllation, we use a baseline Transformer model to generate translations for the whole dataset. To save time, you can just download the pre-processed dataset from our link.

-1. Create mydata folder if it's not there

mkdir mydata
cd mydata

-2. Download pre-processed WMT14 dataset from . After download, uncompress the dataset in side mydata folder.

./ lanmt_wmt14.tgz
tar xzvf lanmt_wmt14.tgz

-3. (Option) Download pre-processed ASPEC Ja-En dataset. Due to copyright issue, we only provide test dataset and extracted vocabularies

./ lanmt_aspec.tgz
tar xzvf lanmt_aspec.tgz

-4. Download teacher Transformer models (735MB) for rescoring candidate translations when performing latent search.

./ lanmt_teacher_models.tgz
tar xzvf lanmt_teacher_models.tgz

Model Training

Here, we start to train the non-autoregressive model. Note that if you don't have time and just want to play with pre-trained model, please jump to .

-1. Go back to lanmt folder

-2. (Single GPU) Run this command:

# If you have 16GB GPU memory
python --opt_dtok wmt14_ende --opt_batchtokens 4092 --opt_distill --opt_annealbudget --train
# If you have 32GB GPU memory
python --opt_dtok wmt14_ende --opt_batchtokens 8192 --opt_distill --opt_annealbudget --train

-2. (Multi-GPU) Run this command if you have 8 GPUs:

# If you have 16GB GPU memory
horovodrun -np 8 -H localhost:8 python --opt_dtok wmt14_ende --opt_batchtokens 4096 \
--opt_distill --opt_annealbudget --train
# If you have 32GB GPU memory
horovodrun -np 8 -H localhost:8 python --opt_dtok wmt14_ende --opt_batchtokens 8192 \
--opt_distill --opt_annealbudget --train

There are some options you can use for training the model:

--opt_batchtokens specifies the number of tokens in a batch

--opt_distill enabling knowledge distillation, which means the model will predict the output of a teacher Transformer

--opt_annealbudget enabling annealing of the budget of KL divergence

In our experiments, we train the model with 8 GPUs, putting 8192 tokens in each batch. If the script is successfully launched, you will see outputs like this:

[nmtlab] Running with 8 GPUs (Tesla V100-SXM2-32GB)
[valid] len_loss=2.77 len_acc=0.12 loss=194.92 word_acc=0.16 KL_budget=1.00
kl=27.87 tok_kl=1.00 nll=164.28 * (epoch 1, step 471)
[valid] len_loss=1.57 len_acc=0.40 loss=69.53 word_acc=0.66 KL_budget=1.00 k
l=28.41 tok_kl=1.02 nll=39.55 * (epoch 1, step 3761)
[nmtlab] Ending epoch 1, spent 53 minutes

In the training log, loss showes the total loss value, nll shows the cross-entropy value, kl shows the KL divergence, tok_kl shows the average KL value for each token and len_loss and len_acc shows the loss and prediction accuracy of the length predictor.

After finishing the model training, we also find it helpful to fix the KL budget at zero, and finetune the model for only one epoch. You can do this by running

# Single GPU
python --opt_dtok wmt14_ende --opt_batchtokens 4092 --opt_distill --opt_annealbudget \
--opt_finetune --train
# Multi-GPU
horovodrun -np 8 -H localhost:8 python --opt_dtok wmt14_ende --opt_batchtokens 4096 \
--opt_distill --opt_annealbudget --opt_finetune --train


To generate translations and measure the decoding time, simply run

python --opt_dtok wmt14_ende --opt_batchtokens 8192 --opt_distill --opt_annealbudget \
--opt_finetune --test --evaluate

You will see the decoding time and evaluated BLEU scores at the end of lines. Then, let's try to refine the latent variables with deterministic inference for only one step

python --opt_dtok wmt14_ende --opt_batchtokens 8192 --opt_distill --opt_annealbudget \
--opt_finetune --opt_Trefine_steps 1 --test --evaluate

We can also sample multiple latent variables from the prior, getting multiple candidate translations then use an autoregressive Transformer model to rescore them, you can do this by running

python --opt_dtok wmt14_ende --opt_batchtokens 8192 --opt_distill --opt_annealbudget \
--opt_finetune --opt_Trefine_steps 1 --opt_Tlatent_search --opt_Tteacher_rescore --test --evaluate

With the --evaluate option, the script will evalaute the BLEU scores with sacrebleu. Once the script finishes you shall see the decoding time and BLEU scores like this

Average decoding time: 89ms, std: 22
BLEU = 25.166677019716257

Use our pre-trained models

If you just want to test out the model and check the decoding speed and quality of translations, you can download our pre-trained models. By running the script with these models, you will get exactly the same BLEU scores as we reported in the paper.

-1. Download the pre-trained models (1GB)

cd mydata
./ lanmt_pretrained_models.tgz
tar xzvf lanmt_pretrained_models.tgz
cd ..

-2. Translate using pre-trained models

# Lightning fast translation
python --opt_dtok wmt14_ende --use_pretrain --test --evaluate
# With one refinement step
python --opt_dtok wmt14_ende --use_pretrain --opt_Trefine_steps 1 --test --evaluate
# With latent search and teacher rescoring
python --opt_dtok wmt14_ende --use_pretrain --opt_Trefine_steps 1 --opt_Tlatent_search --opt_Tteacher_rescore --test --evaluate

-3. (Option) Evaluate the pre-trained model on ASPEC Ja-En dataset

# Lightning fast translation
python --opt_dtok aspec_jaen --use_pretrain --test --evaluate
# With one refinement step
python --opt_dtok aspec_jaen --use_pretrain --opt_Trefine_steps 1 --test --evaluate
# With latent search and teacher rescoring
python --opt_dtok aspec_jaen --use_pretrain --opt_Trefine_steps 1 --opt_Tlatent_search --opt_Tteacher_rescore --test --evaluate

Summary of results

Dataset Options BLEU Decode Time (avg/std) Speedup
WMT14 En-De Our baseline Transformer (beam size=3) 26.10 602ms / 274
--use_pretrain 22.30 18ms / 4 33.4x
--use_pretrain --opt_Trefine_steps 1 24.14 46ms / 4 13.0x
--use_pretrain --opt_Trefine_steps 1 --opt_Tlatent_search 25.01 67ms / 18 8.9x
--use_pretrain --opt_Trefine_steps 1 --opt_Tlatent_search --opt_Tteacher_rescore 25.16 89ms / 22 6.7x
ASPEC Ja-En Our baseline Transformer (beam size=3) 27.15 415ms / 159
--use_pretrain 25.28 21ms / 4 19.7x
--use_pretrain --opt_Trefine_steps 1 27.53 47ms / 8 8.8x
--use_pretrain --opt_Trefine_steps 1 --opt_Tlatent_search 28.08 69ms / 18 6.0x
--use_pretrain --opt_Trefine_steps 1 --opt_Tlatent_search --opt_Tteacher_rescore 28.26 93ms / 23 4.5x


  1. Training is slow

Try to install horovod with nccl support. Training will be much faster with nccl for gradient synchronization.


  • Support half precision training
  • Validation with BLEU criteria
  • Update the distillation data with a new baseline model


LaNMT: Latent-variable Non-autoregressive Neural Machine Translation with Deterministic Inference







No releases published


No packages published