Benefits of Data Augmentation for NMT-based Text Normalization of User-Generated Content

Claudia Matos Veliz1, Orphee De Clercq2, Veronique Hoste1
1Ghent University, 2LT3, Language and Translation Technology Team, Ghent University


One of the most persistent characteristics of written user-generated content (UGC) is the use of non-standard words. This characteristic contributes to an increased difficulty to automatically process and analyze UGC. Text normalization is the task of transforming lexical variants to their canonical forms and is often used as a pre-processing step for conventional NLP tasks in order to overcome the performance drop that NLP systems experience when applied to UGC. In this work, we follow a Neural Machine Translation approach to text normalization. To train such an encoder-decoder model, large parallel training corpora of sentence pairs are required. However, obtaining large data sets with UGC and their normalized version is not trivial, especially for languages other than English. In this paper, we explore how to overcome this data bottleneck for Dutch, a low-resource language. We start off with a publicly available tiny parallel Dutch data set comprising three UGC genres and compare two different approaches. The first is to manually normalize and add training data, a money and time-consuming task. The second approach is a set of data augmentation techniques which increase data size by converting existing resources into synthesized non-standard forms. Our results reveal that a combination of both approaches leads to the best results.