Getting Gender Right in Neural Machine Translation

Eva Vanmassenhove, Christian Hardmeier, Andy Way

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Speakers of different languages must attend to and encode strikingly different aspects of the world in order to use their language correctly (Sapir, 1921; Slobin, 1996). One such difference is related to the way gender is expressed in a language. Saying "I am happy'' in English, does not encode any additional knowledge of the speaker that uttered the sentence. However, many other languages do have grammatical gender systems and so such knowledge would be encoded. In order to correctly translate such a sentence into, say, French, the inherent gender information needs to be retained/recovered. The same sentence would become either "Je suis heureux'', for a male speaker or "Je suis heureuse'' for a female one. Apart from morphological agreement, demographic factors (gender, age, etc.) also influence our use of language in terms of word choices or syntactic constructions (Tannen, 1991; Pennebaker et al., 2003). We integrate gender information into NMT systems. Our contribution is two-fold: (1) the compilation of large datasets with speaker information for 20 language pairs, and (2) a simple set of experiments that incorporate gender information into NMT for multiple language pairs. Our experiments show that adding a gender feature to an NMT system significantly improves the translation quality for some language pairs.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 2018 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing
Place of PublicationBrussels, Belgium
PublisherAssociation for Computational Linguistics
Number of pages6
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-948087-84-1
Publication statusPublished - 31 Oct 2018
Event2018 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing - Square Meeting Center, Brussels, Belgium
Duration: 31 Oct 20184 Nov 2018


Conference2018 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing
Abbreviated titleEMNLP 2018
Internet address


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