Keywords: multilingual language model, gradient alignment
Abstract: Multilingual models jointly pretrained on multiple languages have achieved remarkable performance on various multilingual downstream tasks. Moreover, models finetuned on a single monolingual downstream task have shown to generalize to unseen languages. In this paper, we first show that it is crucial for those tasks to align gradients between them in order to maximize knowledge transfer while minimizing negative transfer. Despite its importance, the existing methods for gradient alignment either have a completely different purpose, ignore inter-task alignment, or aim to solve continual learning problems in rather inefficient ways. As a result of the misaligned gradients between tasks, the model suffers from severe negative transfer in the form of catastrophic forgetting of the knowledge acquired from the pretraining. To overcome the limitations, we propose a simple yet effective method that can efficiently align gradients between tasks. Specifically, we perform each inner-optimization by sequentially sampling batches from all the tasks, followed by a Reptile outer update. Thanks to the gradients aligned between tasks by our method, the model becomes less vulnerable to negative transfer and catastrophic forgetting. We extensively validate our method on various multi-task learning and zero-shot cross-lingual transfer tasks, where our method largely outperforms all the relevant baselines we consider.
One-sentence Summary: We propose a simple yet effective gradient alignment method for finetuning multilingual pretrained language models.