The translation is either ungrammatical or extremely strange, depending on dialect. "I could only say a little" is normal, but is not accepted...
This is not a topic in which I am too strong, and I am not completely sure about this particular sentence, but I can say that we generally distinguish:
little - málo (uncountable)
few - málo (countable)
a little, a bit - trochu (eventually něco málo?)
a few - několik
It gets more complicated with "něco málo" (somewhat?) and similar.
So "a little" may sound better here but the meaning may be slightly different.
To me, "I could only say little" means "I could only say the word 'little'", whereas "I could only say a little" means "I could only say a few words."
The above is my interpretation from an ESL speaker point of view. It could well be wrong. But I do not feel "a little" ais really the most literal or direct translation.
In that case, I think "a little" would be more natural than "little" alone on the English side.
I'm puzzling over this. If you can you give a little context for the sentence, it might help to figure out what the best English translation is.
I was so ashamed or surprised or caught off guard that I was only able to say very few words or sentences to defend myself or to console somebody or something like that.
VladaFu, there was no Reply button for your answer. I would suggest, in the context you describe, that "There was little I could say" sounds most natural. But I don't know how well that works with the CZ original. If it doesn't work, then at least the translation shown above is a pretty direct translation.
Now I realized that there is "směl". My explanation suits "mohl" instead. With směl it is that I was only allowed to say some incomplete information or only some hint or only some general description that someone authorized for public release.
It seems that SMEL is sometimes translated as allowed to and sometimes as able to. I'm a bit confused.
From what I understand, the basic meaning of "smět" is "to be allowed to." So I think that when it's being translated as "could," it's in the sense of being ALLOWED to do something, rather than in the sense of being ABLE to do something.
At present "I was only allowed to say a little" isn't accepted... maybe it should be?
"a little" is different from "little" and means more like "a bit" "little bit", in Czech "trochu" "něco málo"
But if English speakers feel little is the same as a little in this context, it could be considered.
No, I think your explanation makes sense! I buy that they are different and that I should not use "a" little.
I just read all the comments and I feel that "I could only say a little" is better than "I could only say little" which is very awkward in English unless it means that the person could only say the word "little".
Having just landed here again in a practice session, and after reviewing all of the comments currently posted (30 Jan 2019), I've added translations using "A little." Because I don't know if changing the "main" translation (shown at the top of the page) could create a problem for the reverse exercise, I've left the main one as-is.
What about "i could say but little"? It is archaic/snooty but it follows the Czech it has a perfectly clear meaning in English
I think it works nicely on the English side, but I don't know if it's close enough to the Czech sentence. We'll need one of the CZ natives on the team to decide on that.
As a native English speaker, I vote for "a little" in this case as opposed to just "little".