Bytes are All You Need: End-to-End Multilingual Speech Recognition and Synthesis with Bytes

Bo Li, Yu Zhang, Tara Sainath, Yonghui Wu, William Chan

We present two end-to-end models: Audio-to-Byte (A2B) and Byte-to-Audio (B2A), for multilingual speech recognition and synthesis. Prior work has predominantly used characters, sub-words or words as the unit of choice to model text. These units are difficult to scale to languages with large vocabularies, particularly in the case of multilingual processing. In this work, we model text via a sequence of Unicode bytes, specifically, the UTF-8 variable length byte sequence for each character. Bytes allow us to avoid large softmaxes in languages with large vocabularies, and share representations in multilingual models. We show that bytes are superior to grapheme characters over a wide variety of languages in monolingual end-to-end speech recognition. Additionally, our multilingual byte model outperform each respective single language baseline on average by 4.4% relatively. In Japanese-English code-switching speech, our multilingual byte model outperform our monolingual baseline by 38.6% relatively. Finally, we present an end-to-end multilingual speech synthesis model using byte representations which matches the performance of our monolingual baselines.

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