The 'Simply Knitting' blog has a great piece explaining how to use knitting charts. Last November I had printed out a pattern and was frustrated that I couldn't work out how to convert the chart into knitting. I had never heard of knitting charts before and felt like a dummy for not being able to work it out. The only words of advice were at the bottom of the chart - 'Always read charts from right to left'. OK...why? Why not left to right? It didn't mention the fact that you also had to read them from the bottom up. So what, I'm supposed to mind read now?!!
It's like the people at Simply Knitting were just put on our planet to calm, soothe and reassure us that we're not dummies...the people who write bad patterns are.
If you go over there now you'll be able to see how easy it is to read a chart and never be put off knitting anything because of obscure symbols again!