Any ideas on the best way to pronounce this? It seems to me that it's not easy to really emphasise the fact that there's a T there. If you pronounce it like English it would sound like "maĉo" which it isn't, and mat-ĉo seems really clunky.
you're supposed to pronounce mat-ĉo but I suppose in daily life people have tendency to pronounce maĉo
It's important to pronounce the t though, since maĉi means "to chew". But it's true, there are very few contexts where you could confuse the two words!
Like ĉeko and ĉeĥo, although personally I find those okay to say. But getting from T to Ĉ without sliding them together is not that easy to do. Maybe I'll stick to futbala ludo. :)
But how is it supposed to sound? Should the sounds of "t" and "ĉ" be distinct or should it just sound like a long "ĉ"? (a bit like in Italian where a double "t" does not sound like two "t"s but more like a long "t")
Each letter is pronounced only one way and each letter is pronounced. Like Scii comes out as "S-ts-ee-ee". I had a bit of trouble with that at first until I remembered that the "sc" would be like the "sts" in "lists". I imagine I'd pronounce matĉo like "matercho" a little bit.
The best way to pronounce it is to follow the italian model like in "tutto". OK, if you don't speak italian it doesn't help :) In order to do so, you don't really pronounce two consonants, but you stick your tongue and do a very short pause instead of pronouncing the first consonant : "ma(t)-ĉo". If you want to read more about "gemination" (double consonnants) you can read this page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gemination#Italian