Sequence to sequence example in Keras (character-level).

This script demonstrates how to implement a basic character-level sequence-to-sequence model. We apply it to translating short English sentences into short French sentences, character-by-character. Note that it is fairly unusual to do character-level machine translation, as word-level models are more common in this domain.

Summary of the algorithm

  • We start with input sequences from a domain (e.g. English sentences) and corresponding target sequences from another domain (e.g. French sentences).
  • An encoder LSTM turns input sequences to 2 state vectors (we keep the last LSTM state and discard the outputs).
  • A decoder LSTM is trained to turn the target sequences into the same sequence but offset by one timestep in the future, a training process called "teacher forcing" in this context. It uses as initial state the state vectors from the encoder. Effectively, the decoder learns to generate targets[t+1...] given targets[...t], conditioned on the input sequence.
  • In inference mode, when we want to decode unknown input sequences, we:
    • Encode the input sequence into state vectors
    • Start with a target sequence of size 1 (just the start-of-sequence character)
    • Feed the state vectors and 1-char target sequence to the decoder to produce predictions for the next character
    • Sample the next character using these predictions (we simply use argmax).
    • Append the sampled character to the target sequence
    • Repeat until we generate the end-of-sequence character or we hit the character limit.

Data download

English to French sentence pairs.

Lots of neat sentence pairs datasets can be found at:


  • Sequence to Sequence Learning with Neural Networks
  • Learning Phrase Representations using RNN Encoder-Decoder for Statistical Machine Translation
from __future__ import print_function

from keras.models import Model
from keras.layers import Input, LSTM, Dense
import numpy as np

batch_size = 64  # Batch size for training.
epochs = 100  # Number of epochs to train for.
latent_dim = 256  # Latent dimensionality of the encoding space.
num_samples = 10000  # Number of samples to train on.
# Path to the data txt file on disk.
data_path = 'fra-eng/fra.txt'

# Vectorize the data.
input_texts = []
target_texts = []
input_characters = set()
target_characters = set()
with open(data_path, 'r', encoding='utf-8') as f:
    lines ='\n')
for line in lines[: min(num_samples, len(lines) - 1)]:
    input_text, target_text = line.split('\t')
    # We use "tab" as the "start sequence" character
    # for the targets, and "\n" as "end sequence" character.
    target_text = '\t' + target_text + '\n'
    for char in input_text:
        if char not in input_characters:
    for char in target_text:
        if char not in target_characters:

input_characters = sorted(list(input_characters))
target_characters = sorted(list(target_characters))
num_encoder_tokens = len(input_characters)
num_decoder_tokens = len(target_characters)
max_encoder_seq_length = max([len(txt) for txt in input_texts])
max_decoder_seq_length = max([len(txt) for txt in target_texts])

print('Number of samples:', len(input_texts))
print('Number of unique input tokens:', num_encoder_tokens)
print('Number of unique output tokens:', num_decoder_tokens)
print('Max sequence length for inputs:', max_encoder_seq_length)
print('Max sequence length for outputs:', max_decoder_seq_length)

input_token_index = dict(
    [(char, i) for i, char in enumerate(input_characters)])
target_token_index = dict(
    [(char, i) for i, char in enumerate(target_characters)])

encoder_input_data = np.zeros(
    (len(input_texts), max_encoder_seq_length, num_encoder_tokens),
decoder_input_data = np.zeros(
    (len(input_texts), max_decoder_seq_length, num_decoder_tokens),
decoder_target_data = np.zeros(
    (len(input_texts), max_decoder_seq_length, num_decoder_tokens),

for i, (input_text, target_text) in enumerate(zip(input_texts, target_texts)):
    for t, char in enumerate(input_text):
        encoder_input_data[i, t, input_token_index[char]] = 1.
    for t, char in enumerate(target_text):
        # decoder_target_data is ahead of decoder_input_data by one timestep
        decoder_input_data[i, t, target_token_index[char]] = 1.
        if t > 0:
            # decoder_target_data will be ahead by one timestep
            # and will not include the start character.
            decoder_target_data[i, t - 1, target_token_index[char]] = 1.

# Define an input sequence and process it.
encoder_inputs = Input(shape=(None, num_encoder_tokens))
encoder = LSTM(latent_dim, return_state=True)
encoder_outputs, state_h, state_c = encoder(encoder_inputs)
# We discard `encoder_outputs` and only keep the states.
encoder_states = [state_h, state_c]

# Set up the decoder, using `encoder_states` as initial state.
decoder_inputs = Input(shape=(None, num_decoder_tokens))
# We set up our decoder to return full output sequences,
# and to return internal states as well. We don't use the
# return states in the training model, but we will use them in inference.
decoder_lstm = LSTM(latent_dim, return_sequences=True, return_state=True)
decoder_outputs, _, _ = decoder_lstm(decoder_inputs,
decoder_dense = Dense(num_decoder_tokens, activation='softmax')
decoder_outputs = decoder_dense(decoder_outputs)

# Define the model that will turn
# `encoder_input_data` & `decoder_input_data` into `decoder_target_data`
model = Model([encoder_inputs, decoder_inputs], decoder_outputs)

# Run training
model.compile(optimizer='rmsprop', loss='categorical_crossentropy')[encoder_input_data, decoder_input_data], decoder_target_data,
# Save model's2s.h5')

# Next: inference mode (sampling).
# Here's the drill:
# 1) encode input and retrieve initial decoder state
# 2) run one step of decoder with this initial state
# and a "start of sequence" token as target.
# Output will be the next target token
# 3) Repeat with the current target token and current states

# Define sampling models
encoder_model = Model(encoder_inputs, encoder_states)

decoder_state_input_h = Input(shape=(latent_dim,))
decoder_state_input_c = Input(shape=(latent_dim,))
decoder_states_inputs = [decoder_state_input_h, decoder_state_input_c]
decoder_outputs, state_h, state_c = decoder_lstm(
    decoder_inputs, initial_state=decoder_states_inputs)
decoder_states = [state_h, state_c]
decoder_outputs = decoder_dense(decoder_outputs)
decoder_model = Model(
    [decoder_inputs] + decoder_states_inputs,
    [decoder_outputs] + decoder_states)

# Reverse-lookup token index to decode sequences back to
# something readable.
reverse_input_char_index = dict(
    (i, char) for char, i in input_token_index.items())
reverse_target_char_index = dict(
    (i, char) for char, i in target_token_index.items())

def decode_sequence(input_seq):
    # Encode the input as state vectors.
    states_value = encoder_model.predict(input_seq)

    # Generate empty target sequence of length 1.
    target_seq = np.zeros((1, 1, num_decoder_tokens))
    # Populate the first character of target sequence with the start character.
    target_seq[0, 0, target_token_index['\t']] = 1.

    # Sampling loop for a batch of sequences
    # (to simplify, here we assume a batch of size 1).
    stop_condition = False
    decoded_sentence = ''
    while not stop_condition:
        output_tokens, h, c = decoder_model.predict(
            [target_seq] + states_value)

        # Sample a token
        sampled_token_index = np.argmax(output_tokens[0, -1, :])
        sampled_char = reverse_target_char_index[sampled_token_index]
        decoded_sentence += sampled_char

        # Exit condition: either hit max length
        # or find stop character.
        if (sampled_char == '\n' or
           len(decoded_sentence) > max_decoder_seq_length):
            stop_condition = True

        # Update the target sequence (of length 1).
        target_seq = np.zeros((1, 1, num_decoder_tokens))
        target_seq[0, 0, sampled_token_index] = 1.

        # Update states
        states_value = [h, c]

    return decoded_sentence

for seq_index in range(100):
    # Take one sequence (part of the training set)
    # for trying out decoding.
    input_seq = encoder_input_data[seq_index: seq_index + 1]
    decoded_sentence = decode_sequence(input_seq)
    print('Input sentence:', input_texts[seq_index])
    print('Decoded sentence:', decoded_sentence)