Do Multilingual Language Models Think Better in English?


Translate-test is a popular technique to improve the performance of multilingual language models. This approach works by translating the input into English using an external machine translation system, and running inference over the translated input. However, these improvements can be attributed to the use of a separate translation system, which is typically trained on large amounts of parallel data not seen by the language model. In this work, we introduce a new approach called self-translate, which overcomes the need of an external translation system by leveraging the few-shot translation capabilities of multilingual language models. Experiments over 5 tasks show that self-translate consistently outperforms direct inference, demonstrating that language models are unable to leverage their full multilingual potential when prompted in non-English languages. Our code is available at

NAACL 2024
Julen Etxaniz
Julen Etxaniz
PhD Student in Language Analysis and Processing

PhD Student in Language Analysis and Processing at Hitz Center IXA Group UPV/EHU. Working on Improving Language Models for Low-resource Languages. Graduate in Informatics Engineering with speciality in Software Engineering. Master in Language Analysis and Processing.