DORA SAKAYAN was born in Salonica (Greece). There she attended elementary and high school, subsequently completing her secondary education in Vienna (Austria). In 1952 she graduated from the Yerevan State Pedagogical Institute of Foreign Languages (Armenia) and started her pedagogical career at the same institute. In 1957 she was invited to teach at the Yerevan State University (YSU). In 1965 she received her Ph.D. degree in Applied linguistics and Germanic philology at the Moscow Lomonosov State University. Returning to Yerevan, she became Chair of the Department of Foreign Languages at YSU, a position that she held for ten years. Since 1975, Dora Sakayan has been living in Canada where she carried on her career as a Professor of German Studies at McGill University (Montreal, Quebec, Canada) for another twenty-five years. Presently she has the status of Professor post-retirement.
Trained in various areas of applied linguistics, Sakayan has carried out research in both Germanic philology and Armenology. She is the author and co-author of several monographs and articles, as well as textbooks and pedagogical guides. As a polyglot, she has made many translations, contributing to various cross-linguistic and cross-cultural research projects. Sakayan is also editor of conference proceedings and a great number of volumes of linguistic, literary and historic interest. The diversity of her scholarly interests made Dora Sakayan a regular participant in conferences and congresses around the world. Sakayan writes in German, Armenian, Russian, Modern Greek, and English.
In the last 25 years Dora Sakayan has dedicated herself exclusively to Armenology and has been highly productive in the field. In fact, she pioneered Armenian Studies in Canada, starting in 1981 with an Armenian-language program of credit-earning classes at McGill University in Montreal. Consequently, she founded the series "Armenian Studies for the English-speaking World," and enhanced these series with numerous scholarly articles and monographs in Armenian Studies, such as a major volume on Armenian Proverbs with an Anthology of 2,500 Armenian Proverbs in English translation (1994/1995). Her twin manuals on Western Armenian (2000) and Eastern Armenian (2007) were particularly well received around the world.
Sakayan has also contributed to the study of the Armenian Genocide. In 1993, she was handed her grandfather, Dr. Garabed Hatcherian's hand-written journal (My Smyrna Ordeal of 1922). Realizing the historic significance of this eyewitness account, Sakayan undertook its translation, annotation, publication and worldwide dissemination. So far, it has appeared in nine languages.
Sakayan has organized a number of international conferences, including the 5th International Conference on Armenian Linguistics in 1995 at McGill University, the proceedings of which she edited in 1996.
Sakayan has kept close ties with Yerevan State University (YSU), where in the last 10 years she has organized three international conferences and published their proceedings. Her ongoing collaboration with former colleagues at YSU has produced lasting results, as for instance the English-language monograph in collaboration with renowned academician G.B. Jahukian A Universal Theory of Language. Presently, she is actively involved in a translation project that aims to publish German literature related to the Armenian Genocide in Armenian translation, adding to an impressive list of contributions to comparative Genocide studies.
On June 28, 2001, Dora Sakayan received the Cross of the Order of Merit (Bundesverdienstkreuz) of the Federal Republic of Germany for her contributions to Germanic linguistics and teaching of the German language and culture at the university level for 50 years, both in the former Soviet Union - particularly Armenia - and since 1975 at McGill University in Montreal. This is the highest civil award granted to German and foreign citizens for services rendered to the Federal Republic of German in various areas of cultural, political, economic and intellectual life.
On October 9, 2005, Dora Sakayan was awarded the St. Sahak and St. Mesrop medal along with a pontifical by His Holiness Garegin II, Catholicos of All Armenians in recognition of her lifelong dedication and invaluable service to education and scholarship in the State University of Yerevan and at McGill University of Canada.